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Adderstongue Spearwort

Ranunculus ophioglossifolius

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:
40 centimetres tall
Gardens, meadows, mud, riversides, waterside, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
The flowers are small and buttercup-like.
Small elliptical, brown nutlets.
A hairless annual flower with untoothed, pointed, oval leaves.
Other Names:
Adder's-tongue Buttercup, Snake's-tongue Buttercup.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Ranunculus ophioglossifolius is a species of buttercup in the genus Ranunculus. It is also known as adder's-tongue buttercup, snake's-tongue buttercup, and adder's-tongue spearwort. The species is native to Western Europe and it is known for its small, yellow flowers and glossy, tongue-shaped leaves that resemble those of the fern genus Ophioglossum, from which it gets its species name. The plant is found in damp, shady places such as woodlands, meadows, and along streams. It is considered a rare species and is protected in some countries. It is also used as a medicinal herb and a ornamental plant in the garden.


Adderstongue spearwort, also known by its scientific name Ranunculus ophioglossifolius, is a herbaceous perennial plant that belongs to the family Ranunculaceae. This beautiful plant is native to Europe, Asia, and North America, and can be found growing in damp meadows, marshes, and along streams and rivers.

Adderstongue spearwort is a relatively small plant, usually growing to a height of about 20-40 cm. Its leaves are narrow and long, resembling the tongue of a snake or an adder, hence its common name. The plant's stem is slender and wiry, and bears delicate, bright yellow flowers with five petals that bloom from May to August.

One of the most striking features of Adderstongue spearwort is its bright yellow flowers, which are small but very eye-catching. The petals are glossy and reflect sunlight, making the plant stand out in its natural habitat. The flowers are also known to attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and other insects.

In addition to its beauty, Adderstongue spearwort is also of ecological importance. It is a wetland plant, which means it plays an essential role in maintaining the health of wetland ecosystems. Wetlands are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, and they provide important services such as water filtration, flood control, and carbon sequestration. Adderstongue spearwort is a valuable component of these ecosystems, providing habitat and food for a variety of animal species.

Despite its ecological significance, Adderstongue spearwort is not without its challenges. The plant is threatened by habitat loss due to the draining and development of wetlands, as well as by pollution and invasive species. In some regions, the plant is also at risk of being over-collected for ornamental purposes.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect Adderstongue spearwort and its wetland habitats. These efforts include the restoration and creation of wetland habitats, the control of invasive species, and the promotion of sustainable harvesting practices for ornamental use.

Adderstongue spearwort is a beautiful and ecologically important plant that plays a vital role in the health of wetland ecosystems. While it faces some challenges, conservation efforts can help ensure that this plant and its habitats continue to thrive.

Adderstongue spearwort has a long history of traditional use for its medicinal properties. Its roots and leaves were used by indigenous peoples in North America to treat a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, skin irritations, and digestive issues. In Europe, the plant was also used for its medicinal properties, with the leaves being used to treat wounds, ulcers, and other skin conditions.

While the medicinal use of Adderstongue spearwort is no longer widespread, some people still use it for its purported health benefits. However, it is important to note that the plant contains a number of toxic compounds, including protoanemonin, which can cause skin irritation and blistering, as well as gastrointestinal upset and other symptoms when ingested. As such, the plant should be used with caution and under the guidance of a trained herbalist or healthcare professional.

In addition to its ecological and medicinal value, Adderstongue spearwort also has ornamental value. Its bright yellow flowers make it a popular choice for gardeners looking to add some color to their wetland gardens or other damp areas. However, it is important to obtain Adderstongue spearwort from a reputable source, as wild populations should not be harvested for ornamental use.

Adderstongue spearwort is a fascinating plant with a rich history and a variety of ecological, medicinal, and ornamental uses. While it faces some challenges, efforts to protect and conserve this plant can help ensure that it continues to play an important role in wetland ecosystems and in the lives of people who appreciate its beauty and value.

One interesting aspect of Adderstongue spearwort is its unique method of reproduction. The plant produces both seeds and vegetative offshoots, which can help it spread rapidly in its natural habitat. The seeds are dispersed by wind, water, and animals, while the offshoots can produce new plants without the need for pollination.

In addition, Adderstongue spearwort has been the subject of scientific research due to its potential for use in bioremediation. Bioremediation is the use of living organisms to remove pollutants from the environment, and wetland plants like Adderstongue spearwort have been shown to be effective at removing heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants from contaminated soil and water.

Overall, Adderstongue spearwort is a fascinating and valuable plant that is deserving of our attention and protection. Whether we appreciate it for its beauty, its ecological value, or its potential for use in bioremediation, there is no denying that this plant has a lot to offer. With continued conservation efforts and responsible use, we can help ensure that Adderstongue spearwort and other wetland plants continue to thrive and provide us with their many benefits.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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