Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Ranunculaceae has few obvious traits that distinguish it: the plants are usually herbaceous (lacking a woody stem), 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.

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).

Some species have separate staminate and pistillate flowers, some do not, and even if they do, some flowers develop both sexes. This is awful clear, isn't it? But the basic combination of numerous stamens with a few or many separate pistils is uncommon anywhere outside this Family.

Many members of Ranunculaceae have been long cultivated: Delphiniums, Columbines, and Ranunculus in particular. Note: Nearly all members of this family are POISONOUS if eaten, and thus dangerous to humans, pets, and livestock. I didn't know that until now.

Montara Mountains representatives of Ranunculaceae include:

Aquilega formosa var tuncata
Crimson Columbine

Delphinium californicum
California Coast Delphinium

Delphinium decorum
Coast Larkspur

Delphinium variegatum
Royal Larkspur

Ranunculus californicus
California Buttercup

Thalictrum fendleri polycarpum
Meadow Rue



Aquilega formosa var tuncata:
Crimson (Western) Columbine

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Flowers: Bright red, 5 spurred, tubular petals which curve outward to show yellow flower parts; hangs from stems.

Blooms: April - June.

Leaves: Delicate lobed leaflets; in groups of three.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: Shady, damp trails, streamsides - Brooks Falls in San Pedro Valley County Park, above Green Valley in McNee Ranch State Park, San Pedro Road on the Pacifica side.

Status: Native - Common.

Further description & Comment: Up to 3 feet tall. POISONOUS.

Aquilega formosa var tuncata

600x450 JPEG - 24K

640x360 JPEG - 24K

Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf - 520x390 JPEG - 52K

This is one of the most surprising flowers to come across during a walk on the mountain - it often grows next to the trails, and the bright red and yellow flowers catch your eye from yards away. Note the delicate upper leaves and stems, and the larger lower leaves in these pictures.



Delphinium californicum:
California Coast Delphinium

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Flowers: Pale bluish-purple to white, petals folded forward into a funnel; .5 - 1 inch long with short spurs, in long clusters at top of stem.

Blooms: April - June.

Leaves: Deeply cut in fingers, large towards base of plant.

Fruit/Seeds: Green, drying to light tan and then dark, ovoid, slightly pointed; In groups of four developing along stem on former flower pedicels.

Location: Damp slopes, common - San Pedro Road above Green Valley in McNee Ranch State Park.

Status: Native - Common.

Delphinium californicum

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This image shows a close-up of the green seed pods - 450x600 JPEG - 40K

Further description & Comment: 2 to 5 feet tall; stout red stems, known to hang out with California Bee Plant and Seaside Paintbrush. POISONOUS


This other image shows a detail of the flowers:

480x480 JPEG - 40K


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