Ranunculus abortivus is a perennial herb to 50 cm tall, branched, base of stem often purple, root crown somewhat swollen but not bulb or corm-like, roots associated with VA mycorrhizas (Brundrett and Kendrick 1988).
Leaves alternate, basal leaves 2-3 cm, wider than long, kidney-shaped to rounded, base lobed, margin mostly crenate, occasionally lobed, stalks elongate, stem leaves becoming stalkless upward, deeply 3-5 lobed, segments narrow, entire to lobed and toothed.
Flowers yellow, small, petals to 0.3 cm long, shorter than sepals; blooming April-June.
Fruit dry achenes 0.15 cm long, in an oval head.
Wetland status: FACW.
Frequency in NYC: Infrequent.
Habitat: Moist to wet herb layer of open forests and stream banks.
Notes: Seeds and plants eaten by many birds and mammals (Martin 1951). No apparent dispersal mechanism. Rate of migration to distant or disconnected forest sites has been measured as 0.67 m/yr. (Matlack 1994). Contains the toxic oil protoanemonin (Kingsbury 1964).