Eschscholtz's buttercup is a small plant with broad yellow flowers and palmately divided leaves, found in rivulets, seeps and snowflush gullies in the mountains of Denali. Plants are erect and tufted, not stoloniferous, growing 5-25 cm high from fibrous roots. Leaves are rounded or heart-shaped, each leaf with three segments, which are shallowly lobed, the tips rounded. Plants produce a few alternate stem leaves. Stems and leaves are hairless. Plants have one or maybe two flowers per stem. Flowers are cup-shaped, with five shiny yellow petals, 7-12 mm long, widest towards apex, blunt-tipped or rounded. Petals are longer than the sepals. On the underside of the petals, at the base, there is a small nectary covered with a scale on three sides. Sepals are rounded, reddish and have short yellow hairs. Flowers have a thimble-like aggregate of carpels and yellow stamens with thick filaments. Fruiting heads are cylindrical with glabrousachenes. This species of buttercup is distinguished from other members of its genus by its tufted habit, lobed leaves and yellow-hairy sepals.
This species is perennial, but produces new leaves and flowers each season. It is early blooming and protogynous, the stigmas receptive to pollination before the anthers of the same flower mature (Fisher et al. 1979).
Ranunculus eschscholtzii is monoecious with bisexual flowers. It is both self-fertile and outcrossing. It is insect pollinated, primarily by syrphid flies (Fisher et al. 1979). R. eschscholtzii forms sterile hybrids with closely related R. suksdorfii. In populations in the west where R. eschscholtzii is outnumbered by R. suksdorfii, R. eschscholtzii grows without petals, in order not to attract the same pollinators (Fisher et al. 1979).
Eschscholtz's buttercup is an amphi-Beringian species that occurs across the western half of North America southward from Alaska and Northwest Territory to California, Arizona and New Mexico, radiating into easternmost Eurasia. In Alaska this species grows from Attu to Revillagigedo Island in Southeast along the coast, north to the Alaska Range. There are a few localities reported from farther north (including the Seward Peninsula and the White Mountains). In Denali, the species is common on the south side of the Alaska Range. It is also found in isolated localities in the alpine north of the Alaska Range.
Eschscholtz's buttercup is an alpine and subalpine species, occurring from 457 to 1532 m. Slightly more common on south-facing slopes, this species occurs on a wide range of inclines where the average slope is 17 degrees.