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Tall and smallflower buttercup: problem horse pasture plants

  • Fresh tall and smallflower buttercup in pastures are toxic to horses.

  • Horses that eat these species may develop:

    • Blisters on the mouth, gut and skin

    • Diarrhea or colic

    • Swelling of the face, nose, lips and skin

  • Pasture management and herbicides can help control tall and smallflower buttercup in pastures.

  • These buttercup species prefer to grow in lowland meadows, pastures and fields.

Identifying

Tall buttercup plant
Tall buttercup plant Photo credit: University of Minnesota Strand Memorial Herbarium

Stems

  • Slender

  • Slightly hairy

  • Branched

  • Heights range from 6 inches to 3 feet

Leaves

  • Lower leaves of smallflower buttercup are kidney-shaped.

  • Lower leaves of tall buttercup are deeply divided and hairy.

  • Upper leaves are smaller and differ in shape.

Smallflower buttercup plant
Smallflower buttercup plant Photo credit: University of Minnesota Strand Memorial Herbarium

Flowers

  • Small and yellow

  • Divided into five to seven petals

Lifecycle

  • Tall buttercup is a perennial.

  • Smallflower buttercup can be an annual or biennial.

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Toxicity

Tall and smallflower buttercup are toxic to horses when eaten fresh in pasture. Toxicity tends to be higher while the plants are flowering. The dried plant isn’t normally toxic.

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Control

  • Properly manage pastures. Don’t allow your horses to overgraze pastures.

  • Improving drainage can help control this weed.

  • Multiple herbicide applications may help.

    • Follow all directions and grazing restrictions listed on the herbicide label.

    • Read and follow all pertinent information.

Krishona Martinson, equine Extension specialist; Lynn Hovda, DVM, adjunct assistant professor, College of Veterinary Medicine; Mike Murphy, DVM, former professor, College of Veterinary Medicine

Reviewed in 2018

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