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 particlar. 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



Delphinium variegatum:
Royal Larkspur

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Flowers: Royal blue to purple, 5 leaved, orchid-like on the face, sharp, distinct spur. Hanging off short delicate stem.

Blooms: March - May.

Leaves: Heavily forked, densely long haired; leaf segments folded or collapsed together.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: San Pedro Headlands, Blufftops above Devil's Slide on San Pedro Mtn.

Status: Native - Uncommon.

Delphinium variegatum

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Further description & Comment: 1 - 2 feet tall. Hangs out with Iris, often very small groups, isolated. POISONOUS

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These two pictures show the color variation I've seen so far. The Royal is not your hang - out - by - the - side - of - the - trail type flower; you usually have to go traipsing off across the higher elevation bluffs and ridge prairies to find it.

Look for areas with some ground wetness, usually marked by bunches of Douglas Iris. The flower stems can be thin enough that at first the blooms may seem to be floating loose in the air.



Ranunculus californicus:
California Buttercup

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Flowers: Glistening yellow, from 7 to 22 petals.

Blooms: April - June.

Leaves: Widely spaced, often paired; deeply cut and maple-like, lightly haired.

Fruit/Seeds: Fat oval seeds, 2 - 3 mm long, with short, stout curved beak. Grouped in round clusters at top of stems.

Location: Grassy trails, all areas. Gray Whale Cove Trail in McNee Ranch State Park is good place to find this plant.

Status: Native - Common.

Ranunculus californicus

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Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf

Further description & Comment: Up to 12" tall, often growing in spreading colonies as shown at left. Stems erect, well barnched.

This flower. along with Sun Cups and Footsteps-of-Spring, present a bright yellow display each spring on the coastal bluffs and hillsides.



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