4 April 2013 – Sagebrush Buttercup, Harbinger of Spring – Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush Buttercup - Ranunculus glaberrimus Hook

Sagebrush Buttercup

The Sagebrush Buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus Hook.) is a small buttercup that is found in the interior western North America. It ranges from Central British Columbia and Saskatchewan on the north and northern New Mexico and southwestern California on the south.  Here in Washington State, it is found east of the Cascade Range ridge to the Idaho Border. It is commonly found in association with sagebrush, thus its common name. It can also be found in other habitats.  In the Spokane area it thrives in the short bunchgrass community and the Ponderosa Pine community.

Sagebrush Buttercup

Sagebrush Buttercup

 

It is between 2 to 10 inches in height. It generally has five petals, but can occasionally have 10 petals. The flowers are generally one (or two) per plant can be up to 1.5 inches across. The basal leaves are thick and oval, and are entire or with three lobes. The cauline leaves (leaves on the stem) are similar, but smaller.

Sagebrush Buttercup

Sagebrush Buttercup

 

The sagebrush buttercup is among the first flowers to bloom after the snow has melted.  It and the inflated grass widow are considered to be harbingers of spring for nature lovers in Spokane and other areas.

Of all the flowers I have ever seen, the sagebrush buttercup has always been my favorite. I think that is because its yellow flowers are like a warm smiling face telling the world that winter is over and spring is here.

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