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    Because of the shape of Ranunculus flowers, bees do not pollinate them very well, but the bees do leave an abundance of pollen on the glossy petals.  Dew and rain slide off the slick, shiny surface carrying the pollen to the stigmas below to fertilize them. How very interesting the ways of plants are!  

    The species of Ranunculus that grow in the Four Corners area are a bit difficult to tell apart; look first at the leaf shape and the height of the plant.  Flower size, color, and shape are very similar and are difficult to use in distinguishing among species.

    "Ranunculaceae" is an ancient name, probably derived from the Latin "rana", meaning "frog" or "tadpole"; frogs and some Ranunculaceae prefer the same moist habitat.  But the name might refer to some long forgotten perceived relationship in size, shape, and smell between flower and frog. "Culus" is Latin for "little". Linnaeus named this genus in 1753.

Ranunculus macauleyi

Ranunculus macauleyi

Ranunculus macauleyi

Ranunculus macauleyi

Ranunculus macauleyi
Ranunculus macauleyi variety macauleyi (Macauley's Buttercup, Rocky Mountain Buttercup)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Meadows. Summer.
Above: U.S. Basin, August 4, 2015 and July 28, 2016.
Left: Lizard Head Trail, July 6, 2005.

This is a large-flowered Buttercup common in the high country.  It ranges from three to six inches tall, and is most easily identified by the dense soft black hairs on the bracts below the flower and by the elongated and notched-on-the-tip leaves (far right center and photograph below).  Look for Ranunculus macauleyi in subalpine and alpine wet meadows, often near the edge of snow fields.

Asa gray named this species in 1879.  Lt. C. H. McCauley collected plants and butterflies in the Southwest, including in the Pagosa Springs area. (More biographical information about McCauley.)

Ranunculus macauleyi

Ranunculus macauleyi variety macauleyi (Macauley's Buttercup, Rocky Mountain Buttercup)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Meadows. Summer.
U.S. Basin, July 28, 2016.

Ranunculus macauleyi basal leaves are long, narrow, and notched 3-5 times on their tips. Stem leaves are similar in size and notching but few and shorter.

                                Ranunculus macauleyi

Ranunculus macauleyi
Ranunculus macauleyi variety macauleyi (Macauley's Buttercup, Rocky Mountain Buttercup)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Meadows. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, June 28, 2007 and U.S. Basin, July 28, 2016.

The dark, red/black hairs on the underside of the flower make identification certain for Ranunculus macauleyi. Also notice the hairs on the pedicel (the flower stem).

The hairiness of Ranunculus macauleyi is evident when it is no more than 3/4 of an inch tall and leaves are not yet green because they have not begun to photosynthesize. I'll never know how my wife spotted the minute cutie pictured below.                                    

                Ranunculus macauleyi             

Ranunculus macauleyi variety macauleyi (Macauley's Buttercup, Rocky Mountain Buttercup)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Meadows. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, June 23, 2008.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Ranunculus macauleyi