Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

This buttercup is the earliest to bloom. Among the many Ranunculus spp. (buttercups) in Illinois, Early Buttercup can be distinguished by its diminutive size, relatively large flowers (at least ¾" across), and deeply lobed leaves (except for var. apricus). Both the blades of the basal leaves and the petals of the flowers are longer than they are wide; other buttercups often have leaf blades and flower petals that are about as wide as they are long. Mature specimens of Early Buttercup produce fibrous roots that are slightly swollen and fleshy, although not truly tuberous.
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Description

This native perennial wildflower consists of a small tuft of basal leaves and flowering stalks; a tufted plant is typically about 6" tall and 6" across. The basal leaves are usually divided into 3-5 leaflets; these leaflets are divided into narrow lobes and they may have a few teeth along their margins. There is a variety of Early Buttercup (var. apricus) with basal leaves that are shallowly divided into wide lobes or teeth, but it is uncommon. Each basal leaf has a long slender petiole. The flowering stalks are light green to purplish brown; each stalk has 1-2 cauline leaves. The cauline leaves are smaller in size than the basal leaves; they are either sessile or short-stalked. The cauline leaves are undivided, or they have 2-3 small lobes. Both basal and cauline leaves are medium green and either glabrous or silky-hairy. Both the flowering stalks and the petioles of basal leaves are usually silky-hairy. The flowers occur individually or in small loose clusters. Each flower is about ¾–1" across, consisting of 5 spreading petals (rarely more), 5 spreading sepals, a ring of numerous stamens, and a dense cluster of pistils in the center. The yellow petals are oblong or elliptic-oblong in shape; they are longer than wide. The green or yellowish green sepals are ovate in shape and usually hairy; they are shorter than the petals. The blooming period occurs during mid-spring and lasts about 2-3 weeks. Each flower is replaced by a dense cluster of beaked achenes spanning about 1/3" across. These achenes are orbicular and flat-sided (about 2.5–3.0 mm. across); their beaks are straight or curved (about 1.5–2 mm. long), while their sides are smooth. The root system consists of a tuft of thickened fibrous roots. This wildflower spreads by reseeding itself.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Early Buttercup occurs occasionally throughout Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include upland woodlands, thinly wooded bluffs, rocky savannas and sandy savannas, hill prairies, sand prairies, rocky glades, and pastures. This wildflower is found in rather dry areas where there is sparse ground vegetation.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Man., Ont; Ala., Ark., Conn., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Nebr., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Vt., Va., Wis.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Stems erect or ascending, never rooting nodally, strigose or spreading-strigose, base not bulbous. Roots always both filiform and tuberous on same stem. Basal leaf blades ovate to broadly ovate in outline, 3-5-foliolate, 2.1-4.7 × 1.9-4.5 cm, leaflets undivided or 1×-lobed or -parted, ultimate segments oblanceolate or obovate, margins entire or with few teeth, apex rounded-acute to rounded-obtuse. Flowers: receptacle hispid or glabrous; sepals spreading or sometimes reflexed from base, 5-7 × 2-3 mm, hispid or glabrous; petals 5(-7), yellow, 8-14 × 3-6 mm. Heads of achenes globose or ovoid, 5-9 × 5-8 mm; achenes 2-2.8 × 1.8-2.2 mm, glabrous, margin forming narrow rib 0.1-0.2 mm wide; beak persistent, filiform, straight, 1.2-2.8 mm. 2 n = 32.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Early Buttercup occurs occasionally throughout Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include upland woodlands, thinly wooded bluffs, rocky savannas and sandy savannas, hill prairies, sand prairies, rocky glades, and pastures. This wildflower is found in rather dry areas where there is sparse ground vegetation.
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Grassland or deciduous forest; 0-300m.
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Associations

Faunal Associations

The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract primarily bees and Syrphid flies. Bee visitors of Early Buttercup's flowers include honeybees, Little Carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.), Cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.), Mason bees (Osmia spp.), Halictid bees (Halictus spp., Lasioglossum spp., & others), and Andrenid bees (Andrena spp.). Less common visitors of the flowers include butterflies, skippers, and miscellaneous flies (other than Syrphid). The seeds and foliage of Ranunculus spp. (buttercups) are eaten to a limited extent by the Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, and Ring-Necked Pheasant. The seeds are also eaten to a limited extent by the Eastern Chipmunk, Gray Squirrel, Fox Squirrel, and voles. During the winter, Snow Buntings feed on the seeds of some buttercup species in fields and pastures. Because of the toxic foliage, Early Buttercup and other buttercups are often rejected by cattle and other mammalian herbivores as a source of food.
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Flower-Visiting Insects of Early Buttercup in Illinois

Ranunculus fascicularis (Early Buttercup)
(Short-tongued bees collect pollen or suck nectar; beetles feed on pollen & are non-pollinating; Syrphid flies usually suck nectar, but sometimes feed on pollen; other insects suck nectar; observations are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina calcarata sn, Ceratina dupla dupla sn fq icp; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Synhalonia speciosa sn; Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada ovatus sn, Nomada sayi sn, Nomada superba superba sn fq; Megachilidae (Osmiini): Osmia illinoensis sn, Osmia pumila sn fq

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn cp fq, Augochlorella striata sn fq, Halictus confusus sn, Halictus ligatus sn cp, Halictus rubicunda sn, Lasioglossum coriaceus sn, Lasioglossum imitatus sn, Lasioglossum pectoralis sn cp, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus sn, Lasioglossum pruinosus sn cp, Lasioglossum versatus sn cp fq, Paralictus simplex sn; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena cressonii sn cp, Andrena miserabilis bipunctata sn, Andrena violae sn

Flies
Syrphidae: Chalcosyrphus nemorum sn, Cheilosia capillata sn, Dasysyrphus venustus sn, Eristalis transversus fp, Eupeodes americanus sn, Melanostoma mellinum sn, Orthonevra pictipennis sn, Paragus bicolor sn, Pipiza femoralis sn fq, Sphaerophoria contiqua sn fp, Toxomerus geminatus sn fq, Toxomerus marginatus sn fp fq; Bombyliidae: Bombylius major sn; Sarcophagidae: Ravinia anxia sn; Muscidae: Bithoracochaeta leucoprocta sn, Neomyia cornicina sn; Fanniidae: Fannia manicata sn fq

Butterflies
Pieridae: Colias philodice

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Erynnis juvenalis

Beetles
Oedemeridae: Asclera ruficollis fp np

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering winter-spring (Jan-Jun).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Ranunculus fascicularis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ranunculus fascicularis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Threats

Comments: Highly threatened by land-use conversion and habitat fragmentation, and to a lesser extent by forest management practices and succession (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full sun to light shade, mesic to dry conditions, and a rather poor soil containing rocky material or sand. This buttercup is a candidate for rock gardens.
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Notes

Comments

Ranunculus fascicularis is very similar to R . hispidus var. hispidus , and herbarium specimens without underground parts may be difficult to identify. Ranunculus fascicularis grows in drier habitats; segments of its leaves are commonly oblanceolate and blunt, with few or no marginal teeth; and its petals are widest at or below the middle. Ranunculus hispidus var. hispidus is usually larger in all its parts (leaves, flowers, heads of achenes); leaf segments are variable in shape but their apices are normally sharper and their marginal teeth more numerous, and petals are widest above the middle.
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