Adder's-tongue spearwort (Ranunculus ophioglossifolius)

Adder's-tongue spearwort in flower
Loading more images and videos...

Adder's-tongue spearwort fact file

Adder's-tongue spearwort description

GenusRanunculus (1)

Adder's-tongue spearwort is related to the buttercup, and an alternative name for it is the 'Badgeworth buttercup' (3). The Latin name Ranunculus means 'froglike' and refers to the plant's preference for aquatic habitats. When submerged, the pale greenish-yellow leaves float to the surface like small water-lily leaves (3). The flowers are small and yellow (3). The specific part of the scientific name, ophioglossifolius refers to the fact that the leaves are shaped like the small fern Ophioglossum (4).

Height: up to 50 cm (2)

Adder's-tongue spearwort biology

This annual plant has very precise needs. From August to October bare, damp soil is essential to allow germination to occur. During winter the plants need to be submerged so that they can survive, and the water level must fall in spring. The number of plants present at a site each year can vary enormously, and depends on climatic and management factors (3).


Adder's-tongue spearwort range

At present, this species is known from just two sites in the UK, Badgeworth and Inglestone Common, both in Gloucestershire (2). It has previously been recorded in another 2 sites in southern England (4). Elsewhere the species occurs widely throughout southern Europe, as well as in North Africa and western Asia (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Adder's-tongue spearwort habitat

Inhabits semi-permanent marshes and ponds which dry out in summer (2), and prospers at pond-edges where livestock have trampled the ground (3).


Adder's-tongue spearwort status

Classified as Endangered in Great Britain and fully protected by Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (2).


Adder's-tongue spearwort threats

Known threats are drainage and development of suitable habitats (2). The Badgeworth site was threatened by the proposed development of a plant-hire vehicle wash-down area nearby, but fierce opposition from local people saved the site from the inevitable pollution that would have occurred (3). Lack of management of the pond at Inglestone is also a threat (4).


Adder's-tongue spearwort conservation

The Badgeworth site is the smallest nature reserve in Britain (3), and is located in a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) (2). The site is managed in ways that benefit adder's-tongue spearwort; bare patches are made each year to allow the species to germinate, and livestock have been allowed to graze in certain areas to keep competing species at bay. The Inglestone site is an SSSI, and although the site was neglected in the past, suitable management is now underway (2). Adder's-tongue spearwort is one of Plantlife's 'Back from the Brink' species (5).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more



Information jointly authenticated by Tim Rich of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, and Plantlife.



Lives or grows for just one year.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (April 2002)
  2. Wigginton, M. J. (1999) British Red Data Books 1; Vascular Plants. 3rd Edition.
  3. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
  4. Rich, T. C. G (2002) Pers. comm.
  5. Plantlife (November 2002):

Image credit

Adder's-tongue spearwort in flower  
Adder's-tongue spearwort in flower

© John Mason /

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Adder's-tongue spearwort (Ranunculus ophioglossifolius) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top