Buttercup Family

California Buttercup © KKorbholz

Ranunculaceae (ra-nun-kew-LAY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Leaves usually compound or lobed
  • Flower parts in indefinite numbers
  • Petals freely attached
  • Stamens usually numerous

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Generally herbaceous annuals and perennials, with some woody climbers and shrubs
  • Leaves
    • Simple (not divided into leaflets) and palmately lobed, or ternately compound (divided into 3 leaflets)
    • Alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem) or opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem)
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) in many forms
    • Generally bisexual and radially symmetric
    • Petals freely attached
    • Parts in indefinite numbers, a trait of simple, primitive flowers
    • Stamen (male flower part) usually numerous
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a follicle (a dry, multi-seeded pod that opens on one side), achene (a single-seeded, dry fruit that does not split open), or berry (a usually multi-seeded fruit with a fleshy ovary wall)


  • Approximately 1,700 species worldwide
    • Includes columbine, anemone, larkspur, monkshood, and clematis
  • Many species used as ornamentals and a few are sources for medicinal drugs
  • Some species highly toxic
  • Scientific name from its largest included genus Ranunculus, from the Latin rana, “little frog,” as many species grow in wet places
  • Represented by 11 species at Edgewood

See General References

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family