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Species notes: Both Swamp Buttercup (the older R. septentrionalis) and Hispid Buttercup have almost the same characteristics except for the amount of long spreading hair on the stems and the preference for location. Most sources such as Flora of North America and the Minnesota plant lists of the DNR and the U of M Herbarium now combine these plants into R. hispidus of which there are 3 accepted varieties. See notes following the photos.
Habitat: Buttercups comprise about 275 different species. With it's golden-yellow flowers with shining petals, R. hsipidus grows on the wetland path in the Woodland Garden. A plant of semi-moist areas and rich loamy soils, it needs dappled sunlight in spring during flowering and then the leaves remain over summer in the shade. Roots are fibrous, without tubers. Plant types that were formerly classified as R. septentrionalis are usually found in more moist soil.Names: Ranunculus hispidus is in Ranunculus Sect. Ranunculus. The generic name Ranunculus, is from two Latin words, 'rana' meaning ' frog' and 'unculus' meaning 'little' and together they refer to a group of plants, many of which grow in moist places - like little frogs. The species, hispidus, means 'with fine hair'. The variety name, nitidus, is from the Latin word niteÅ, meaning 'to shine'. The family name of Buttercup, used to be "Crowfoot', hence the continuation of the old name in many of the other buttercup species common names.
Varieties: There are two closely related varieties considered native to Minnesota: The species detailed above and Ranunculus hispidus Michx. var. caricetorum is the other. The difference is mainly in the seed and the sepals: var. caricetorum has sepals spreading or reflexed from the base and achene margins 0.1-0.2 mm broad; whereas var. nitidus has sepals reflexed 1 mm just above the base and achenes with margins 0.4-1.2 mm broad. Both of these varieties can root at the stem nodes. The third variety, not found in Minnesota, is var hispidus whose stems are not decumbent and do not root at the nodes. Native populations overlap in a number of Minnesota counties, including Hennepin where the Garden is located. Native to fewer than 30 counties, mainly in the southern half of Minnesota, var. nitidus has less distribution that var. caricetorum. Var. nitidus is native to the eastern half of the U.S., and Manitoba and Ontario in Canada. R. hispidus is one of 16 buttercup species found in Minnesota."A number of the early flowering plants are members of the crowfoot family [Ranunculaceae -in current times this family is now called the Buttercup Family], [such] as the anemones and buttercups. In the divided leaves of a crowfoot, as some of the buttercups are called, the early botanists saw a resemblance to a bird’s foot. The buttercups of Minnesota are not so much in evidence as the tall European buttercup [Ranunculus acris L.] the pest of the hay fields - farther east. (Source: www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org)