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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 uncinatus (Woodland Buttercup)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Montane. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Trail up to Spiller-Helmet Ridge, August 8, 2005.

Ranunculus uncinatus is similar to our other Buttercups in being tiny-flowered, shiny-petaled, and widely spread through lowlands and mountains.  But it grows much taller, from eight to twenty-four lanky inches tall. Stems often droop or arch.  Basal and lower stem leaves are cut into three main divisions, reminiscent of Geranium leaves.  Upper leaves are narrow and smooth edged.

David Don named this plant in 1831.  "Uncinatus" means "hooked" and refers to the small hooked style beak at the tip of the achene (the fruit), visible in the second photograph below.

Ranunculus uncinatus (Woodland Buttercup)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Montane. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Trail up to Spiller-Helmet Ridge, August 8, 2005.

In the top photograph at left, the petals (less than 6 millimeters long) are fresh and lustrous, anther sacks are full of pollen, and hooked styles are short.  In the older flower (below left), petals have lost their luster, and shrunken stamens and anthers fringe the swollen seed head.

Ranunculus uncinatus
Ranunculus uncinatus (Woodland Buttercup)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Montane. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Cross Mountain Trail, July 14, 2009.

Leaves of R. uncinatus can be very similar to those of Geraniums, Delphiniums, and Monkshoods. Click for a comparison.

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 uncinatus