Fig buttercup, Lesser celandine
FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME
Ranunculus ficaria L.
FAMILY NAME COMMON
FAMILY SCIENTIFIC NAME
Ranunculus ficaria is an herbaceous perennial that behaves as a ground cover. This plant measures 10-30 cm (4-12 in.) long. It is a spring ephemeral that grows from a cluster of tuberous roots in late winter or early spring. The glossy, dark green (sometimes slightly mottled), fleshy leaves are on long petioles, and are cordate to oblong-cordate in shape. The margins can be entire or wavy. The lower leaves are usually opposite in their arrangement. The leaves measure 1.8-3.7 cm (0.7-1.5 in.) long and 2-4 cm (0.75-1.5 in.) wide. The above ground portion of this plant dies back sometime in June. The glossy flowers of this plant are bright yellow and have 8-12 narrowly obovate petals. The flowers measure 1-2 cm (0.4-0.75 in.) across and appear in late April to early May. The head of the achenes is globose in shape and measures about 7 mm (0.28 in.) across. The achenes are pubescent and without a beak. Ranunculus ficaria also produces below ground, spheric or ellipsoid bulbils which aid in its dispersal. Page References Fernald 648, Gleason & Cronquist 59, Holmgren 58, Magee & Ahles 510, Newcomb 364, Peterson & McKenny 130. See reference section below for full citations.
Ranunculus spp., Caltha palustris L. (marsh marigold) Picture of C. palustris, Glechoma hederacea L. (gill-over-the-ground). Most other species of Ranunculus have upright stems, while the stems of R. ficaria are decumbent. Caltha palustris has larger leaves, upright stems, lacks petals (it has only yellow sepals) and has follicular fruits. See the catalog of species page for Glechoma hederacea for a comparison.
Ranunculus ficaria reproduces both by means of seeds and vegetative tubers. The tubers are often moved by flooding and sometimes by the borrowing of animals. Deliberate planting by humans and the moving of soil containing tubers also contribute to the dispersal of this plant.
Ranunculus ficaria is native to north Africa as well as Europe, from the United Kingdom in the north to Italy in the south, Portugal in the west to Turkey and Russia in the east. In the United States it has been found from New Hampshire to Virginia and west to Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois. It is also found in the western states of Washington and Oregon. In New England this plant has been reported from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
HISTORY OF INTRODUCTION IN NEW ENGLAND
Ranunculus ficaria was most likely introduced into the United States for horticultural purposes. The actual date and place of introduction is unknown.
HABITATS IN NEW ENGLAND
Abandoned Field, Early Successional Forest, Edge, Floodplain Forest, Herbaceous Wetland, Open Disturbed Area, Pasture, Roadside, Vacant Lot, Wet Meadow, Yard or Garden. Ranunculus ficaria gros best in moist areas where it can form large carpets. Forested floodplains seem especially susceptible to invasion.
Ranunculus ficaria poses a great threat to early blooming spring plants. It emerges even earlier than these early spring natives. It outcompetes them for resources and forms dense mats that exclude most other spring vegetation. This plant is still being distributed horticulturally in a variety of different cultivars, so its continuous planting is providing additional points of introduction. It appears to easily disperse from points of intentional introduction.
Plant Conservation Alliance Fact sheet including management information
Documentation required: A specific photograph or mounted snippet of the leaves and flowers. Best time for documentation: Spring.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System Taxonomic information
PLANTS Database General information and map
Flora of North America Online Description, history of introduction and map
Plant Conservation Alliance Fact sheet
Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany 8th ed. American Book Co., Boston.
Flora of North America Association ed. 2000. Flora of North America vol. 3. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York.
Gleason, H.A. 1952. The New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York
Gleason, H.A. and A.C. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.
Holm, L.G., J.V. Pancho, J.P. Herberger and D.L. Plucknett. 1979. A Geographical Atlas of World Weeds. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA.
Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.
Magee, D.W. and H.E. Ahles. 1999. Flora of the Northeast. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.
Newcomb, N. 1977. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. Little Brown, Boston.
Peterson, R.T. and M. McKenny. 1968. A field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1. (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.