Ranunculaceae - Buttercup Family
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Ranunculaceae, the Buttercup family, is a large family, globally, it consists of around 1,800 species in about 50 genera. The family occurs throughout the world, but is most abundant in temperate and cool regions of the northern and southern hemispheres. Ranunculus is Latin for "a little frog", the name applied by Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) to a group of plants in this family that grows where frogs abound.
It's not an economically important family. The commercially available species are almost all ornamentals. Some genera are important as poisonous plants. The poisonous properties of Aconitum and Delphinium are well known, particularly to those in involved with cattle. Many, possibly most, other genera contain poisonous species. The compounds involved vary but include alkaloids (in Aconitum and Delphinium), protoanemonin (in Anemone, Clematis, and Ranunculus), and cardiac glycosides (in Helleborus). A drink of Aconitum tea was the lethal drug used for giving the death penalty in ancient times.
Almost all members of the Ranunculaceae are herbaceous, but most species of Clematis are woody vines. The leaves are usually basal or alternate, but are opposite in Clematis. The leaves are usually without stipules, but stipules are present in Thalictrum, Caltha, and
Ranunculus.
The flowers are usually radially symmetric and bisexual, but Delphinium and Aconitum are bilaterally symmetric and Thalictrum has unisexual flowers. When both sepals and petals are present, there are usually 5, but sometimes 4, and sometimes no petals, but brightly colored sepals. The petals may have spurs that run between the sepals (as with columbines), or only some petals with spurs that run into the sepals (as in delphiniums).
The flowers have numerous stamens, and either many pistils that develop into single-seed fruit or a few separate pistils that develop into many-seeded fruits. Fruits are either pods (follicles), seed-like (achenes), or berries.

 
 
Guide to Identify Presented Genera and Species of the Buttercup Family
FLOWERS WITH 5 YELLOW OR WHITE PETALS
Ranunculus - Buttercups
Herbs of various height, erect or creeping, on dry to wet ground or in water.
Flowers yellow with mostly 5 showy petals and 5 smaller sepals.
Leaves basal and alternate, simple or divided into narrow segments.
FLOWERS WITH 5 PETALS AND 5 SPURS
Aquilegia flavescens - Yellow Columbine
Plants usually 20-70 cm tall, freely branched. Open sites, foothills to alpine.
Flowers showy, nodding. Sepals 5, spreading. Petals 5, with slender spurs.
Leaves mainly basal, divided in 3's, long-stalked. Leaflets mostly round.
FLOWERS WITH SHOWY PETAL-LIKE SEPALS, VARIOUS COLORS
Anemone parviflora - Northern Anemone
Slender plants of various height. Mostly on dry sites, all elevations.
Flowers white, showy, 1-3 on long stalks, with 5 large, petal-looking sepals.
Basal leaves long-stalked, palmately divided into sections. Some stem leaves.
Caltha leptosepala - Marsh Marigold
Low, alpine plant with fleshy, leafless stems, 5-10 cm tall. Wet, open sites.
Flowers white, solitary, 2-4 cm wide with 5-15 petal-looking sepals.
Leaves basal, oblong to heart-shaped, thick, waxy, long-stalked, wavy edges.
Clematis
Mostly woody vines, up to 5 m high. Open to shaded sites, moist to dry.
Flowers blue or white with 4 or more sepals, usually spreading.
Leaves opposite, compound, with stalked, lance-shaped leaflets.
Pulsatilla patens - Pasqueflower
Silky-hairy plants. Moist to dry, open sites, montane-subalpine.
Flowers solitary with white or blue sepals, usually 6. Stamens bright yellow.
Basal and stem leaves long-stalked, finely divided in 3's.
Trollius laxus - Globeflower
Hairless herb, 10-40 cm tall. Moist to wet, open sites, montane-alpine.
Flowers white-creamy, 2-4 cm wide, solitary, with 5-9 petal-looking sepals.
Leaves palmately divided into 5 toothed segments, membranous lobes at base.
OTHER FLOWERS WITHOUT PETALS
Thalictrum - Meadow Rue
Mono- or bisexual plants, branching. Usually at moist sites, foothills-montane.
Flowers greenish or whitish, in branches. Numerous stamens hanging down.
Leaves alternate, thin, repeatedly divided in 3's. Leaflets round, slender-stalked.
FLOWERS ASYMMETRICAL, BLUE, IN TALL CLUSTERS
Delphinium occidentale - Tall Mountain Larkspur
Poisonous plants, with numerous blue flowers in tall, narrow clusters.
Flowers have 2 pairs of small petals and 5 large sepals, 1 extending to a spur.
Leaves are basal and alternate, palmately cut into several narrow leaflets.
FLOWERS WHITE, SMALL, IN DENSE BALL-LIKE CLUSTERS
Actaea rubra - Baneberry
Branched plant, leafy, growing several red, glossy berries in the fall.
Flowers small, white, with slender petals, in dense, rounded clusters.
Leaves alternate, few, 2-3 times divided in 3's. Segments toothed and lobed.
Alphabetical listing with links to presented species of the Buttercup family:
     
Scientific Name English Name Swedish Name
 

 

 
Actaea
Anemone
Aquilegia
Caltha
Clematis
Delphinium
Pulsatilla
Ranunculus
Thalictrum
Trollius
Baneberry
Anemone
Columbine
Marigold
Clematis
Larkspur
Pasque Flower
Buttercup
Meadow Rue
Globe Flower
Trolldruvor
Sippor
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Aklejor
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Kabblekor
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Klematisar
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Storriddarsporrar
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Backsippor
Smörblommor
Rutor
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Smörbollar
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