early buttercup

(Ranunculus fascicularis)

Conservation Status
early buttercup
 
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
Wetland Indicator Status
     
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative

     
  Midwest

FACU - Facultative upland

     
  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland

     
           
 
Description
 
 

Early buttercup is an early spring wildflower. It occurs in the United States and southern Canada east of the Great Plains. In Minnesota it is scattered to common in the lower third of the state, local and uncommon to absent in the middle third, and absent in the northern third. It is found in open upland woodlands, woodland openings, savannas, prairies, pastures, farmyards, lawns, railroads, and roadsides. It grows under full sun to partial shade, on rocky or sandy soil that is poor in nutrients and where there is little competing vegetation. It is the earliest buttercup to bloom, and one of the first of all wildflowers to bloom in the spring. This is the feature that gives the plant its common name.

Early buttercup is a 4 to 12 (10 to 30 cm) tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on basal leaves and one or more leafy flowering stems from thickened (tuberous) roots and thin fibrous roots. In late season the tubers can be up to 2 (5 cm) long. The plant sometimes appears alone but often grows in tufts.

Basal leaves are on slender, up to 4 (10 cm) long leaf stalks (petioles). The petioles are moderately to densely covered with silky, spreading and/or appressed hairs. Leaves are 1316 to 1 (21 to 47 mm) long, ¾ to 1¾ (19 to 45 mm) wide, broadly egg-shaped in outline, and pinnately divided into 3 or 5 primary leaflets. The leaflets may be undivided, have 2 to 5 lobes, or sometimes be cut into 2 to 5 secondary leaflets. The ultimate segments are inversely lance-shaped or inversely egg-shaped. They are usually angled or tapered, sometimes rounded at the base, and usually have a rounded, acute or obtuse point at the tip. The margins are usually toothless but occasionally have a few teeth near the tip. The upper and lower surfaces may be hairless or covered with silky hairs. Basal leaves are present at flowering time.

Stem leaves are smaller, alternate, and stalkless or on short petioles. They may be undivided or cut into 3 lobes or leaflets. The upper and lower surfaces are hairy. The ultimate segments are narrowly oblong or narrowly inversely lance-shaped. The margins are usually untoothed.

The stems are erect or ascending and moderately to densely covered with silky, spreading and/or appressed hairs, especially toward the base. They do not root at the nodes, are not thickened at the base, and do not have bulbils.

The inflorescence is usually a single flower, sometimes 2 to 4 flowers, each one at the end of a long stalk (peduncle) at the top of the stem. The peduncle is hairy and up to ¾ (20 mm) long.

Each flower is ½ to 1 (12 to 25 mm) wide. There are 5 outer floral leaves (sepals), usually 5 petals, rarely up to 8 petals, and numerous stamens. At the center of the flower there is a dense cluster of greenish pistils (carpels). The sepals are green or yellowish-green, 316 to ¼ (5 to 7 mm) long, and 116 to (2 to 3 mm) wide. They are widely spreading at first, becoming strongly bent backward near the base and hanging downward with age. They are more or less flat, with no transverse fold, and are usually hairy, sometimes hairless. They drop off soon after the flower is fully expanded (anthesis). The petals are yellow, glossy, widely spreading, and much longer than the sepals. They are oblong to oblong-elliptic, 516 to 916 (8 to 14 mm) long, and to ¼ (3 to 6 mm) wide. The stamens form a ring around the base of the cluster of pistils. The stamen stalks (filaments) are yellowish and hairless. The anthers are yellow. Each pistil has a single tiny style. Each carpel has an up to (4 mm) long beak.

The fruit is a dry seed capsule (achene) replacing each pistil. As the achenes begin to develop, the petals and sepals fall to the ground, leaving an egg-shaped to more or less globe-shaped, 316 to (5 to 9 mm) long, 316 to 516 (5 to 8 mm) wide seed head. Each achene is shaped like a swollen or inflated lentil, 116 to (2.0 to 2.8 mm) long and 116 (1.8 to 2.2 mm) wide. The upper margin is sharply angled, forming a narrow rib. The faces are smooth and hairless. There is a 116 to (2.0 to 2.8 mm) long extension (beak) at the end of the achene. The beak is slender and straight.

 
     
 

Height

 
 

4 to 12 (10 to 30 cm)

 
     
 

Flower Color

 
 

Yellow

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Moderately moist to dry. Open upland woodlands, woodland openings, savannas, prairies, pastures, farmyards, lawns, railroads, and roadsides. Full sun to light shade. Poor, rocky or sandy soil,

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Flowering

 
 

April and May

 
     
 

Pests and Diseases

 
 

 

 
     
 
Use
 
 

Toxicity

 
 

Most members of the genus Ranunculus, including early buttercup, are poisonous. They contain ranunculin, which causes blistering in the mouth and in the gastrointestinal tract when eaten. Handling the plants causes ranunculin to be broken down into protoanemonin, which causes contact dermatitis.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.

 
  4/14/2022      
         
 

Nativity

 
 

Native

 
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Scattered to common in the lower third of the state, local and uncommon to absent in the middle third, and absent in the northern third.

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Ranunculanae  
 

Order

Ranunculales (buttercups, poppies, and allies)  
 

Family

Ranunculaceae (buttercup)  
  Subfamily Ranunculoideae  
  Tribe Ranunculeae  
 

Genus

Ranunculus (buttercup)  
       
 

Subordinate Taxa

 
 

Some authors recognize two varieties, var. apricus, with basal leaves divided into wide shallow lobes or teeth, and var. typicus, with basal leaves divided into 3 to 5 leaflets. Of these, only var. typicus occurs in the northern half of the United States. Most authors reject the separation and treat the varieties as synonyms.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

early buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis var. apricus)

early buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis var. typicus)

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

early buttercup

prairie buttercup

prairie tufted buttercup

thick-root buttercup

tufted buttercup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Achene

A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded seed capsule, formed from a single carpel, with the seed attached to the membranous outer layer (wall) only by the seed stalk; the wall, formed entirely from the wall of the superior ovary, does not split open at maturity, but relies on decay or predation to release the contents.

 

Ascending

Growing upward at an angle or curving upward from the base.

 

Beak

On plants: A comparatively short and stout, narrow or prolonged tip on a thickened organ, as on some fruits and seeds. On insects: The protruding, tubular mouthpart of a sucking insect.

 

Bulbil

A small bulb, formed in a leaf axil or at the base of a stem, that can produce a new plant.

 

Carpel

The female reproductive organ of a flower, consisting of an ovary, styles, and stigmas.

 

Elliptic

Narrowly oval, broadest at the middle, narrower at both ends, with the ends being equal.

 

Filament

On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.

 

Oblong

Two to four times longer than wide with nearly parallel sides.

 

Peduncle

In angiosperms, the stalk of a single flower or a flower cluster; in club mosses, the stalk of a strobilus or a group of strobili.

 

Petiole

The stalk of a leaf blade or compound leaf that attaches the leaf blade to the stem.

On plants: The stalk of a leaf blade or compound leaf that attaches the leaf blade to the stem. On ants and wasps: The basal stalk of the abdomen.

 

Pinnate

Having the leaflets of a compound leaf arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk.

 

Sepal

An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

 

Tuber

An underground root (as with dahlias) or stem (as with potatoes), thickened by the accumulation of reserved food (usually starch), which serves for food storage and vegetative propagation.

 

 

 

 

 

Do Not Disturb

Another common name for early buttercup is thick-root buttercup. The thickened, tuberous roots are a strong identifying feature. However, uprooting it to observe this feature will kill this perennial plant. Identify early buttercup by its small size; relatively large flowers; pinnate, deeply lobed leaves; flat sepals; straight beak on the achenes; and early blooming period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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Nancy Falkum

 
 

first Early Buttercup

 
    early buttercup      
           
 
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Slideshows
 
Ranunculus fascicularis
Corey Raimond
  Ranunculus fascicularis  

 

slideshow

       
 
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Other Videos
 
  Early Buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis)
PrairieMoonNursery
 
   
 
About

Jun 4, 2010

http://www.prairiemoon.com - The earliest Buttercup to bloom at Prairie Moon Nursery is the Early Buttercup with its yellow flowers.

 
  Woodland Edge: Early Buttercup
Sanders' Wildflowers
 
   
 
About

Mar 3, 2020

Enjoy a collection of educational videos by Dr. Roger Sanders about the spring wildflowers found throughout the southern Appalachians. These videos are a production of Core Academy of Science, a christian nonprofit based out of Dayton, TN.

 

 

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  Nancy Falkum
4/10/2022

Location: Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, Weaver Dunes Unit

first Early Buttercup

 

early buttercup

 
           
 
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Created: 4/14/2022

Last Updated:

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