E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Ranunculus flammula L.
lesser spearwort (creeping spearwort; greater creeping spearwort; greater creeping spearwort )
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #83889)

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Distribution of Ranunculus flammula
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Species Information

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Amphibious perennial herb, usually with stolons and rooting from nodes, roots slender, fibrous; stems decumbent to prostrate, creeping, to 50 cm long, simple to few branched, smooth or sparsely stiff short-hairy, somewhat hollow.
Tufted at nodes, simple, lanceolate or oblanceolate to thread-like, 0.7-6.5 cm long, 0.4-10 mm wide, usually entire, sometimes shallowly-toothed, bases and tips pointed to thread-like; long- to short-stalked.
Inflorescence of solitary, terminal flowers or few-flowered cymes near branch tips, on stalks to 10 cm long; bracts lanceolate or oblanceolate, receptacle smooth; petals 5 or 6, distinct, yellow, 2.5-7 mm long, 1-4 mm wide, egg-shaped, nectary on upper surface, the nectary scale smooth, shallowly cup-shaped, wider than long; sepals 5, spreading or weakly bent back, 1.5-4 mm long, 1-2 mm wide, smooth or appressed stiff-hairy; stamens 10-50; pistils 5-50.
Achenes, several to many in a globe-shaped head 2-4 mm long, 3-4 mm wide, the achenes egg-shaped, 1.2-1.6 mm long, 1-1.4 mm wide, smooth, smooth to net-veined; beaks persistent, lanceolate to linear, straight or curved, 0.1-0.6 mm long.
Separation of this species into infraspecific taxa, based mainly on leaf width and flower size, is arbitrary at best. See Calder and Taylor (1968) and Whittemore (1997) for alternative treatments.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Shorelines, wet meadows, marshes and ditches in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common throughout BC; circumpolar, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to MN, CO and CA; Greenland, Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Ranunculus flammula

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 150 736 1490
Slope Gradient (%) 0 0 2
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
5 6 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CWH(1), ICH(3), MS(1), SBPS(1)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Ranunculus flammula var. ovalis (J.M. Bigelow) L.D. Benson
Ranunculus reptans var. reptans

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References