Snowy Buttercup
Ranunculus eschscholtzii Schlecht.
Family: Ranunculaceae, Buttercup
Genus: Ranunculus
Synonyms: Ranunculus nivalis
Other names: mountain buttercup
Nomenclature: eschscholtzii = named after Eschscholt
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Toxic plant
No medicinal data

General: perennial, often waxy-coated, hairless throughout to yellowish- or brownish-soft-hairy below the flowers, from a root crown and slender, fibrous roots. Stems 1 to several, erect, mostly 10-25 cm tall.

Leaves: the basal slender-stalked, the blades reniform to broadly obovate in outline, 1-3 cm long, from shallowly 3-lobed to 2 or 3 times cut into linear segments. Stem leaves usually lacking or 1 or 2 and then alternate and transitional to the stalkless, 3-lobed to finely cut bracts.

Flowers: yellow, 1-3 on stout stalks, 2-12 cm long, with 5 rounded petals, 7-15 mm long. Nectary scale 0.5 mm long, hairless, forming a small triangular pocket. Sepals 5, spreading, 3-8 mm long, hairless to yellowish or brownish-hairy, usually purplish-tinged, quickly dropped. Receptacle ovoid, up to 15 mm long. Stamens about 40-125. Late June-August.

Fruits: 30-80 achenes, obovate in outline, 1.5-2 mm long, slightly flattened, nearly as thick as broad, smooth and usually hairless or finely hairy, the edges evident but not prominent. Stylar beak prominent, slender, 0.8-1.5 mm long, straight to somewhat curved.


Mountain meadows and talus slopes, in w. and sc. parts of MT. Also from AK to CA, NM and AZ.
Toxic Properties

All parts of buttercups are mildly poisonous when fresh, the toxins are destroyed by heat or by drying The plant also has a strongly acrid juice that can cause blistering to the skin. Ingestion causes burning of the mouth, abdominal pain, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Skin redness, burning sensation, and blisters may follow contact with the sap. The toxic principle is protoanemonin, released from the glycoside ranunculin. However, larger quantities must be eaten for serious toxic effects to be experienced.

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