Sagebrush Buttercup
Ranunculus glaberrimus Hook.
Family: Ranunculaceae, Buttercup
Genus: Ranunculus
Other names: elliptical buttercup, early buttercup
Nomenclature: glaberrimus = most hairless
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Medicinal plant
Toxic plant

General: perennial from a large cluster of rather fleshy roots 2-3 mm thick. Stems usually several, erect to trailing, 5-20 cm tall, simple or branched above, hairless to sparsely stiff-hairy upward.

Leaves: mainly basal, the stipular base long-stiff-hairy, the blade rather fleshy, elliptic to ovate or obovate, entire to deeply 3-lobed, the base rounded to gradually tapered to a stalk 1 to several times as long. Stem leaves 1 to several, alternate, similar to the basal but shorter-stalked.

Flowers: 1 to several, on stalks up to 10 cm long. Sepals 5, spreading, purplish-tinged, 5-8 mm long, hairless to stiff-hairy, soon dropped. Petals usually 5, rarely 6-8, yellow, 8-15 mm long. Nectary scale wedge- to fan-shaped, 1.5-2 mm long, the side edges joined most of the length, forming a deep pocket, the upper edge usually hairy. Receptacle round, hairless to finely short-hairy. Stamens 40-80. April-early June.

Fruits: achenes, 30-150, each 1.5-2 mm long, obovate in outline, about half as thick as broad, usually finely short-hairy but otherwise smooth, the inner edge slightly winged. Stylar beak straight, 0.5-0.8 mm. long.


Mainly in ponderosa pine woodland and sagebrush desert, in most parts of MT. Also from B.C. to n. CA, NM, and e. to the Dakotas and NE.
Medicinal Uses

The Okanagan-Colville Indians used a poultice of mashed and dampened whole plants applied to sore joints and pains of any kind. The Thompson Indians made a poultice of mashed flowers used for warts, and considered the plant a skin irritant.

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. The Okanagan-Colville Indians used dried or mashed, fresh and whole specimens of sagebrush buttercup placed on a piece of meat as poisoned bait for coyotes. They also rubbed flowers or whole plants on arrow points as a poison.

Advertising Disclosure: Montana Plant Life may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or visitors clicking on links posted on this website.
Copyright ©