- Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
- Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae)
- Summer-deciduous perennial herb
- Basal and alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
- Deeply-divided into 3 lobes with deeply toothed margins
- Upper leaves generally reduced
- Loosely-branching inflorescence (flower arrangement)
- Each flower grows on a long leafless stem (a scape)
- 9-17 shiny/waxy yellow overlapping petals
- Nectary at petal base, with cuplike scale
- Numerous yellow stamens (male flower parts) and pistils (female flower parts)
- 5 sepals (usually green, outer flower parts) are folded back
- Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
- Height to 27 in.
- Native to California
- Grows in a wide variety of habitats including chaparral, grasslands, coastal bluffs, woodlands, and moist meadows
- See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
- Outside California, grows in Oregon south into Baja California, Mexico
- Grows at elevations to 7,000 ft.
Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)
- Native people collected the seeds for pinole (Anderson 2005)
- Pinole is a general term for various flours made from the ground, toasted seeds of wildflowers and grasses, eaten dry or moistened and shaped into balls or cakes
- Spanish word, from an Aztec word, pinolli
- CAUTION – the ingestion of raw seeds, sap, flowers, or leaves results in moderate but non-life-threatening symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting)
- Ranunculus (ra-NUN-ku-lus) – from the Latin for “little frog,” referring to the genus growing in moist areas
- Were you ever told that if you held a buttercup flower under your chin and it reflected yellow, you liked butter?
- The glossy-yellow petals of Ranunculus consist of 3 layers: a yellow pigment layer, an air layer, and a starch layer
- The layers produce a highly directional, reflective optical response—a flash—which may lure in pollinators (Vignolini 2011)
- When not blooming, may be confused with royal larkspur (Delphinium variegatum), which has more deeply cut leaves than California buttercup
- Found in many habitats, including grasslands and woodlands
- See iNaturalist for observations of this plant
- Flowers February – April
Anderson, M.K. 2005. Tending the Wild. University of California, Berkeley.
Vignolini, J., et. al. 2011, Dec. 14. Directional Scattering from the Glossy Flower of Ranunculus: how the buttercup lights up your chin. Journal of the Royal Society Interface.