• Key characteristics
  • Biology
  • Impacts
  • Control
  • Further information

  • A typical yellow-flowered buttercup commonly found in pastures, gardens, cultivated land, and waste places
  • Perennial plant that spreads by hairy stolons (horizontal stems that creep along the ground for up to 1 m, rooting and forming new plants at each node). Once the daughter plant has established, the stolon decays, allowing the daughter plant to grow independently
  • Flowers are glossy yellow, with five petals and between 2 and 3 cm in diameter
  • Larger mother rosettes with many leaves produce a great number of primary stolons and hence more daughter plants
  • Leaves are hairy, triangular in shape, about 5 cm wide by 4 cm long, and divided into three distinct lobes, with the central leaflet being attached on a short stalk
  • Each flower is followed by a rough green ball of 20-40 achenes, each achene about 3– 4 mm in length, including its small hooked beak.

Origin and habitat

  • Native to Europe, North Africa, and south-west Asia, now widely distributed throughout New Zealand
  • Thrives under wet soil conditions, and is prevalent in ditches and low-lying areas
  • Prefers fertile and consolidated soils which are waterlogged for short periods
  • Grows well under moderate temperatures and moderate light intensity
  • Common in pastures grazed by cattle or horses, but less common in those grazed by sheep as they eat buttercup leaves.


  • Can re-grow from fragments of root crown or stolon, so the plant must be removed in its entirety to eliminate regrowth
  • Large stolons spread from the base of the plant and daughter plants grow at the nodes of the stolon
  • Spreads faster by vegetative reproduction when in bare ground or when surrounding plants are grazed heavily
  • Individual plants rarely survive longer than about 18 months, but by that time each plant has produced several daughter plants
  • Flowers between October and February and seeds germinate in spring
  • Seeds can be dispersed in water or by animals
  • Daughter plants are more likely created by vegetative reproduction than by seedling establishment.

Impact on pasture

  • Creeping buttercup competes with sown pasture species for water and nutrients
  • During spring and summer months it can be very visible in the farming landscape due to its erect, bright flowers. In particular in dairy pastures as cattle do not eat it.

Impact on livestock

  • May be poisonous to livestock (there is no strong evidence). However, any harmful toxins probably degrade when the pasture is conserved as hay.

  • Creeping buttercup is not affected by low rates of glyphosate
  • Can also tolerate being mown to low levels because the stolons grow very close to the ground.

Chemical control options for creeping buttercup in pastures


Active ingredient When to apply Residual effect Grass damage Clover damage
2,4-D ethylhexyl ester /2,4-DB Late autumn, early winter or early spring. Seedlings will be killed but mature plants will only be burnt off, particularly by bentazone and the butyric formulations (MCPB or 2,4-DB). Moderate No Slight
bentazone + MCPB Slight No Slight
MCPA Moderate No Slight
MCPB Slight No Slight
MCPB + MCPA Moderate No Slight
flumetsulam Slight No No
thifensulfuron-methyl Slight Slight Moderate

Consult your farm consultant, industry rep or the New Zealand Agrichemical Manual for more information about chemical control.