Its Buttercup Week on iNaturalist! May 01 - May 07, 2016


From The Princess Bride to the classic song by The Foundations, buttercups have long been symbols of beauty, and we’ll be looking for some this week on the Critter Calendar!

The Buttercup family, known scientifically as the Ranunculaceae, is a group of about 1,700 species of plants with worldwide temperate and subtropical distribution. In appearance they can vary widely, from the broad, wide flowers of the Clematis plants to the tubular blossoms of the larkspurs and the crown-like shape of Western Columbine. However, there are several traits that can clue you in on their buttercup membership:


  • Think of the word “simple.” In botanical terms, this means that the parts of the flower, such as the petals, sepals, and more, are rarely or never fused together. Most flowers of other families have one pistil, or female organ, but buttercups have multiple separate pistils.
  • Flowers are frequently in aggregate structures like spikes or panicles.
  • Buttercups are almost always herbaceous, or lacking in woody structures. Only some of them are shrubs or woody vines.
  • Buttercup fruits are usually dry simple structures such as achenes or follicles. Some, like thimble-weed, have wooly structures which aid them in being taken by the wind.

Most buttercups are toxic, and some, such as the wolfsbane genus (Aconitum) are very dangerous. Even handling them or picking leaves without using gloves can cause serious poisoning, so be careful out there! There was even a recent murder case in England involving deliberate Acontium poisoning.

We’ll be keeping track of Ranunculaceae observations here. Happy buttercup hunting!

Posted by loarie loarie, May 08, 2016 06:04 AM

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