Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)
A large family that includes some unusual flower forms. Petals may be lacking or inconspicuous, and the sepals are commonly colored and showy. Stamens are usually numerous. In the genus Ranunculus, the sepals are commonly petal-like, in addition to the petals, and a prominent head of achenes occupies the center of the flower.
Aconitum columbianumNutt. Monkshood. (Plate 6.177) An erect, leafy perennial, 2–4 ft (6–12 dm) tall. Leaves are thin, deeply three-lobed and again divided and toothed, 2–5 in (5–12 cm) long and broad, somewhat reduced upward. Flowers are in terminal spikes, with some smaller ones at the nodes. The plant can be confused with the tall larkspur of similar habitats. Their leaves are similar, but their flowers are quite different in form. Monkshood has five showy, irregular flower parts known as sepals. The upper one forms a hood, the distinguishing feature of this species. A pair of broad sepals is directly under the hood, and a pair of lesser ones lies below. Two specialized petals under the hood go unnoticed. The entire flower is about 1 in (2.5 cm) long. Flower: Calyx parts deep blue-purple, petals whitish.
Distribution. Cool, moist meadows and streamsides, commonly in willows; White Mountains; Pinyon-juniper Woodland and Subalpine Zone, 7,500–9,000 ft (2,287–2,744 m).
Aquilegia formosaFisch. Red Columbine. (Plate 6.178) An erect perennial, 18–36 in (0.5–1 m) tall. Leaves are twice divided, the leaflets broad or wedge-shaped at the base and with rounded teeth above. The flowers are on terminal branches, nodding when in bloom. They are unusual in form; the sepals flare out like petals, about 1/2 in (13 mm) long, and the petals are spurs topped by a short, erect, blunt lamina, about 1 in (2.5 cm) long in all. A cluster of yellow stamens protrudes conspicuously. This is considered one of the most beautiful of our mountain flowers. Flower: Calyces and petals red, except for yellow at the apex of the lamina.
Distribution. Limited, along streams; White Mountains; Desert Scrub to Subalpine Zone, 5,000–10,000 ft (1,524–3,049 m).
Aquilegia shockleyiEastwood. Mojave Columbine. (Plate 6.179) A perennial so similar to A. formosa that it may be difficult to determine the difference. The sepals
tend to be a little broader and the spurs slightly shorter. The leaves are three times divided, and the leaflets are smaller and slightly paler underneath. Flower: Same as A. formosa .
Distribution. Moist or wet places, commonly at springs or seepage areas; can tolerate some alkali; Desert Scrub to Subalpine Zone, 4,900–9,800 ft (1,494–2,988 m).
Clematis ligusticifoliaNutt. var. brevifoliaNutt. Virgin's Bower. (Plate 6.180) A perennial vine with branches 4–15 ft (1.3–5 m) long that climbs over bushes and up trees. Leaves have five to seven ovate leaflets, rounded or heart-shaped at the base and shallowly toothed above. Flowers are clustered toward the ends of the branches. There are four or five petal-like sepals, 1/4–1/2 in (6–13 mm) long, but no petals, and numerous stamens. When mature each seed has a feathery "tail" 1/2–1 in (13–25 mm) long. These are abundant enough to give an impressive mass effect, like silvery clouds over the riparian growth. Flower: Sepals creamy to greenish white.
Distribution. Common at springs and along streams; Desert Scrub and Pinyon-juniper Woodland, 4,500–9,200 ft (1,372–2,805 m).
Delphinium parishiiGray. Desert Larkspur. (Plate 6.181) A perennial with erect stems 6–24 in (1.5–6 dm) tall. Leaves are mostly basal but may dry and be gone by blooming time. They are triangular in outline, deeply cut into wedge-shaped to linear divisions, 1–3 in (2.5–7.7 cm) broad, on petioles 1 in (2.5 cm) to several inches long. Flowers are in a terminal spike on the upper part of the stem. They are about 3/4 in (2 cm) long, irregular in form, with the upper of the five sepals prolonged into a spur. The others are ovate and somewhat hairy. Two upper petals are whitish, and two lower ones are colored like the sepals and are also hairy. Flower: Sepals and lower petals sky blue.
Distribution. Dry places, widespread; Desert Scrub and Pinyon-juniper Woodland, 3,500–7,800 ft (1,067–2,378 m).
Delphinium polycladonEastwood. Willow Larkspur. (Plate 6.182) A perennial with erect stems 6–30 in (1.5–7.3 dm) high. Leaves mostly basal, rounded in outline, and deeply divided, 1–3 in (2.5–7.7 cm) wide. The branching inflorescence is comparatively few-flowered. Flowers are much the same in form as those of the desert larkspur but not quite as open, about 1 in (2.5 cm) long. Flower: Dark blue or deep blue-purple.
Distribution. Uncommon in wet meadows and along streams; White Mountains; Pinyon-juniper Woodland and Subalpine Zone, 8,500–11,500 ft (2,591–3,506 m).
Ranunculus andersoniiGray. Pink Ranunculus. (Plate 6.183) A low perennial 4–8 in (1–2 dm) high. Leaves are in tufts, the blades about 1 in (2.5 cm) across, divided into narrow lobes, on petioles 1–3 in (2.5–7.7 cm) long that join the root below the ground surface. Naked stems carry one or two flowers 1 in (2.5 cm) broad.
The five broadly rounded petals exceed the ovate sepals. Flower: Petals rose-pink to pale pink, sepals reddish.
Distribution. Uncommon, dry rocky places; mostly in Pinyon-juniper Woodland, 6,500–7,500 ft (1,982–2,287 m).
Ranunculus cymbalariaPursh var. saximontanusFernald. Desert Buttercup. A perennial with running stems rooting at the nodes. Leaf blades are ovate with straight or heart-shaped bases, 1/2–1 in (13–25 mm) long, on petioles 1–4 in (2.5–10 cm) long. Flowers are on slender, often branching stems 2–10 in (5–25 cm) high. Sepals are quickly shed, leaving 3/8 in (1 cm) petals at the base of an elongated head. Flower: Yellow.
Distribution. Common and widespread in moist or wet places; can tolerate some alkali; Desert Scrub to Subalpine Zone, 4,000–10,500 ft (1,220–3,201 m).
Ranunculus eschscholtziiSchlecht. var.oxynotus(Gray) Jepson. Snow Buttercup. (Plate 6.184) A small perennial 2–6 in (5–15 cm) high from a branching rootstock clothed with persistent leaf stems. Leaves are roundish in outline, deeply lobed, 1/2–1 in (13–25 mm) broad, mostly basal with some linear-lobed leaves on stems. Flowers are 3/4–1 in (2–2.5 cm) broad, with five sepals. This is a showy buttercup that appears near the borders of melting snowbanks. Flower: Bright yellow.
Distribution. Gravelly places, moist from melting snow; Alpine Fell-fields in the White Mountains; Alpine Zone, 11,400–14,000 ft (3,475–4,258 m).
Ranunculus glaberrimusHook. var. ellipticus(Greene) Greene. Large-headed Buttercup. A perennial with prostrate or ascending stems 2–6 in (5–15 cm) long, not stoleniferous. Basal leaf blades are elliptic, narrowing to slender petioles 1–3 in (2.5–7.7 cm) long. Stems are leafy also, but these leaves lack petioles. The five petals are obovate and exceed the sepals. The akene head is globose and unusually large, 3/8–3/4 in (1–2 cm) in diameter, and is finely hairy. Flower: Yellow.
Distribution. Uncommon, springs and moist meadows; White Mountains; Alpine Zone, 11,600 ft (3,537 m).
Thalictrum alpinumL. Dwarf Meadow-rue. A perennial 2–10 in (0.5–2.4 dm) high with basal leaves and naked stems. The few leaves are divided into fan-shaped leaflets, thick and strongly veined, with margins turned under, dull green in color. The flowers are nodding, are minute, and lack petals, but have protruding stamens. This is an unusual, though not showy, species. Flower: Green.
Distribution. Uncommon, moist meadows and springs fed by snowbanks; White Mountains; Alpine Zone, 10,500–12,000 ft (3,201–3,658 m).
Thalictrum sparsiflorumTurcz. Few-flowered Meadow-rue. A perennial 1–4 ft (3–12 dm) high, leafy throughout. The green leaves are divided and strongly resemble
those of columbine. The flowers of this species are nodding and similar to those of T. alpinum . The hanging stamens might be compared to tiny tassels. There is a difference between the leaves of the two species, and this one is much leafier. Flower: Green.
Distribution. Cool, moist, or boggy places; White Mountains; Pinyon-juniper Woodland and Subalpine Zone, 8,000–10,000 ft (2,439–3,049 m).