Common Name
Buttercup, crowsfoot
Botanic Name
Ranunculus spp. Among the buttercups considered more toxic to animals than others are R. scleratus, R. flammula, R. parviflora, R. acris, R. abortivus, R. repens, R. cymbalaria, and R. testiculatus
Plant Family
Borders of lakes, ponds and streams, generally in wet areas, early spring bloomer
Depending upon the species, buttercups are found throughout the USA
Animals Affected
Cattle, horses
Toxic Principle
An oily glycoside, ranunculin, which is converted to protoanemonin by the action of plant enzymes released when the plant is chewed. Protoanemonin is an irritant and can cause blistering of the mucous membranes. The dried plant non-toxic. The bitter taste of the protoanemonin can also be passed through the milk of lactating animals. Lethal dose of bur buttercup in sheep was estimated at 500g of green plant in a 45 kg sheep. (1)
Perennial herbaceous plants with fibrous roots. Stems are erect, stout, hairless or nearly so. The basal leaves are reniform, long petioled, and 3-parted. The upper leaves are sessile or short-petioled. Flowers are few, sepals 5, petals yellow, stamens are 10-many, pistils many, fruit is an achene.
Excessive salivation, reddening of oral mucous membranes, colic and diarrhea. Horses maintained in heavily infested pastures exhibited severe emaciation due to severe watery diarrhea and eventually severe incoordination, recumbency, and paralysis. Euthanized horses had ulcers and erosions throughout the stomach and large intestine.
Animals usually recover rapidly once removed from the buttercups.
Reproductive System
Abortions have been reported in horses and cows maintained in pastures heavily infested with Ranunculus bulbous L and Ranunculus acris, respectively. (2,3)
Special Notes
References: 1. Olsen JD, Anderson TE, Murphy JC, Madsen G. Bur buttercup poisoning of sheep. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1983, 183:538-543. 2. Morales H. Abortions in a dairy herd in the VIII region of Chile attributed to the consumption of creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens. Arch Med Vet 1989; 21:163–166. 3. Swerczek TW. Abortions in Thoroughbred mares associated with consumption of bulbosus buttercups (Ranunculus bulbosus L). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2016 Mar 15;248(6):669-72. doi: 10.2460/javma.248.6.669. PMID: 26953921.
Bur buttercup - Ranunculus testiculatus
Bur buttercup