Corn buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis)

Corn buttercup in flower and with fruit
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Corn buttercup fact file

Corn buttercup description

GenusRanunculus (1)

Corn buttercup produces yellow flowers with shiny petals on an erect, leafy stem (2). The leaves are split into narrow lobes (3), and the seed heads (called achenes) are extremely spiky (4), and have earned this buttercup the alternative local names of Devil's claws, Devil-on-all-sides, and hellweed (5).

Height: 15-60 cm (2)

Corn buttercup biology

This annual plant flowers from May to July (3). It is visited by small flies (2).


Corn buttercup range

Formerly widespread, but now very scarce (4) and only seen regularly in the south of England (3). It also occurs at a few sites in Wales, south-west England and some scattered localities in the north-west of England and Scotland (2). Elsewhere it is found in central and southern Europe, North Africa and west Asia, reaching as far east as India (2).

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

Corn buttercup habitat

This species is a weed of cornfields (4), and seems to prefer calcareous soils (2) and clay (6). It also occasionally occurs on disturbed ground, such as on road-sides (2).


Corn buttercup status

No conservation designations.


Corn buttercup threats

It is likely that agricultural intensification is responsible for the decline of this once common species (5), starting at the end of the nineteenth century when seed cleaning techniques were improved (2). Like all weeds of arable land, corn buttercup faces the more modern threats of herbicide and fertiliser use, the loss of field-margins, the use of more productive and competitive crops and alterations in the traditional style of crop rotation (5).


Corn buttercup conservation

Very little direct conservation action has been targeted at this species. It may benefit from agri-environment schemes.

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

Find out more

See the Plantlife website:
See the website of the Botanical Society of the British Isles at:



Information authenticated by Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity:



A simple single-seeded fruit that falls from the plant in one piece; they usually in occur in clusters.
Agri-environment schemes
These schemes allow the government to compensate farmers for using methods that benefit the environment. The two main initiatives in the UK are the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and Environmentally Sensitive Areas. Since October 2000 these have formed part of the England Rural Development Programme (EDRP), administered by DEFRA, the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs. See for more on these initiatives.
Lives or grows for just one year.
Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2002)
  2. Stace, C. (1991) New flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. Sterry, P. (1997) Complete British Wildlife Photo Guide. Harper Collins Publishers, London.
  4. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
  5. Grigson, G. (1996) The Englishman's Flora. Helicon Publishers Ltd. Oxford.
  6. Byfield, A. (2003) Plantlife. Pers. comm.

Image credit

Corn buttercup in flower and with fruit  
Corn buttercup in flower and with fruit

© Saxifraga Foundation

Saxifraga Foundation
Bredaseweg 335
5037 LC
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (13) 590 0709


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