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Creeping Spearwort

Ranunculus reptans

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres long
Gardens, meadows, riversides, waterside, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
Yellow buttercup-like flowers. Pollinated by flies, bees and beetles.
The fruit is an achene.
A perennial flower with long, slender linear leaves. The plant is creeping rooting at leaf nodes. Grows along the margins of lakes.
Other Names:
Creeping Buttercup, Creeping European Buttercup.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Ranunculus reptans, also known as creeping buttercup or European creeping buttercup, is a perennial herb in the Ranunculaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and it is known for its small, yellow, cup-shaped flowers and glossy, three-lobed leaves that are borne on creeping stems. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, and can be found in damp, shady places such as woodlands, meadows, and along streams. The plant can be invasive and spread aggressively, and it is considered a weed in some areas. It should be controlled if it becomes invasive. It is also used as a medicinal herb and a ornamental plant in the garden.


Creeping Spearwort, scientifically known as Ranunculus reptans, is a herbaceous plant species belonging to the Ranunculaceae family. It is also commonly referred to as Creeping Buttercup, and it is widely distributed in the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America.


Creeping Spearwort is a perennial plant that spreads by runners or stolons, forming dense mats on the ground. The stems of the plant can grow up to 30 cm in length and are prostrate, or ascending, with several branches. The leaves are simple, lobed, and deeply dissected, and they form a rosette at the base of the plant. The flowers are yellow and have five petals with a diameter of about 1 cm. They are typically arranged in small clusters at the end of the stems, and they bloom from late spring to mid-summer.

Habitat and Distribution

Creeping Spearwort is a common weed that can be found in various habitats, including meadows, fields, pastures, waste places, and along roadsides. It prefers moist and fertile soils and can tolerate both full sun and partial shade. It is native to Europe and Asia and has been introduced to North America and other regions as a garden ornamental. It is now considered an invasive species in some areas.


Despite its invasive nature, Creeping Spearwort has some traditional medicinal uses. The plant contains several bioactive compounds, including saponins, alkaloids, and flavonoids, that have been found to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial properties. The plant has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, including rheumatism, skin diseases, and respiratory problems.

However, it is important to note that Creeping Spearwort contains a toxic compound, protoanemonin, which can cause skin irritation and blistering if the plant is handled or ingested. Therefore, it is not recommended to use the plant for medicinal purposes without proper knowledge and guidance.

Creeping Spearwort is an interesting plant species that is widely distributed in temperate regions of the world. Despite its invasive nature, it has some traditional medicinal uses, and further research may reveal more potential benefits. However, caution must be exercised when handling or ingesting the plant due to its toxic compounds.

Ecological Impacts

As an invasive species, Creeping Spearwort can outcompete native plant species and reduce biodiversity in the ecosystems where it is present. It has the ability to spread rapidly through its runners, forming dense mats that shade out other plants and deplete soil nutrients. This can have significant ecological impacts, affecting the habitat of native wildlife and altering the structure and function of ecosystems.

Control Measures

Prevention is the best strategy for controlling the spread of Creeping Spearwort. This can be achieved by avoiding the introduction of the plant into new areas and by taking measures to prevent its spread, such as cleaning equipment and vehicles that may have come into contact with the plant.

In areas where the plant is already established, mechanical methods, such as hand-pulling or cutting, can be effective in reducing its population. However, care must be taken to prevent the spread of plant fragments or runners during the removal process.

Chemical control methods can also be used, but these should be used with caution and in accordance with local regulations. Herbicides containing glyphosate or 2,4-D have been found to be effective in controlling Creeping Spearwort, but they can also have non-target impacts on other plant species and wildlife.

Creeping Spearwort is an interesting plant species that has both potential medicinal uses and ecological impacts. While it may have some benefits, it is important to exercise caution when handling or ingesting the plant due to its toxic compounds. Additionally, steps should be taken to prevent the spread of the plant and to control its population in areas where it is invasive. Through careful management, we can help protect our native ecosystems and preserve biodiversity for future generations.

Cultural Significance

In addition to its ecological and medicinal value, Creeping Spearwort also has cultural significance in some regions. In parts of Europe, the plant has been associated with various folk beliefs and customs. For example, it was believed that the plant had magical powers and could be used in love potions or to ward off evil spirits. It was also used in some traditional rituals, such as the May Day celebrations in England.

Furthermore, Creeping Spearwort has been used in the production of natural dyes. The plant contains a yellow pigment that can be extracted and used to dye textiles, such as wool or silk.

Research and Conservation

As with many plant species, there is still much to be learned about Creeping Spearwort, including its genetic diversity, population structure, and ecological interactions. Research in these areas can help us better understand the plant's biology and ecology, which can in turn inform management decisions.

Conservation efforts are also important for preserving the genetic diversity and ecological function of Creeping Spearwort populations. This can be achieved through the establishment of protected areas, the management of invasive populations, and the promotion of sustainable use practices.

In conclusion, Creeping Spearwort is a complex and interesting plant species with both positive and negative impacts. It has been used for medicinal and cultural purposes and can also have significant ecological impacts as an invasive species. By carefully managing its populations and conducting research to better understand its biology and ecology, we can ensure the continued survival of this important plant species.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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