This section is from the book "Sub-Alpine Plants Or Flowers Of The Swiss Woods And Meadows", by H. Stuart Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Sub-Alpine Plants: Or, Flowers of the Swiss Woods and Meadows.
Annual or perennial herbs, sometimes entirely aquatic. Leaves entire or more or less divided. Flowers usually yellow or white. Sepals 5, very rarely 3. Petals 5 or more, each with a thickened hollow spot at the base, often covered by a minute scale. Stamens numerous. Carpels numerous, without awns, in a globular or oblong head, each with a single ovule attached near its base. A large genus, spread widely over the temperate regions of the globe, and even found in the tropics.
Rootstock short, premorse, tufted with thick fibres. Stem erect, 1-3 feet, leafy, branched above, 3-many-flowered, flexuous, glabrous like the leaves or with a few scattered hairs. Root-leaves and lower stem-leaves stalked, developing before the flowers, palmate, 3-7 cleft; segments 2-3 cleft, or undivided, unequally serrate, acute; stem-leaves more shortly stalked or sessile, less divided, less serrate. Flowers forming a terminal cyme. Petals white, obovate, obtuse. Carpels veined and furrowed, large, glabrous, with a short curved beak. The sepals, which envelop the buds before opening (when they fall) are a beautiful purplish colour. Very variable, both in the height of stem and in the numbers of leaves and flowers. The leaves are thin and dark green.
1. POLYGONUM VIVIPARUM.
2. RANUNCULUS ACONITIFOLIUS.
3. POLYGONUM BISTORTA.
4. PARNASSIA PALUSTRIS.
5. SOLDANELLA ALPINA.
6. ACHILLEA MACROPHYLLA.
7. THESIUM ALPINUM.
4/7 NATURAL SIZE.
The variety platanifolius L., commoner in the Eastern Alps, has a tough, not zigzag stem and glabrous peduncles. In Norway it is found up to the birch limit.
Wet meadows, borders of streams, and shady, stony places, in clefts of rocks and by springs in the mountains; and often brought down to a low elevation by mountain torrents. June to August. 2000-8000 feet.
In cultivation it does best in cool, damp, rocky places under trees, and can be associated with such vigorous plants as Adeno-styles, Achillea macrophylla, Mulgedium alpinum, etc.
Eastern, Central and Western Alps; Carpathians; Sudetic Mountains; Black Forest; Vosges; Jura; Cevennes; Corbieres and Pyrenees; Corsica.
Stem erect, 3-6 inches high, usually 1-leaved and 1-flowered, glabrous. Leaves roundish cordate or reniform, undivided or slightly 3-cleft near the apex, crenate; stem-leaves linear. Flower-stalk furrowed. Calyx glabrous. Flowers white. Petals obovate, with wavy margin, crenate. Achenes smooth without any membranous margin, glabrous, globular, drawn out into a striated hooked beak. August.
Meadows on primitive rocks, 3500-6800 feet, rare; Carpathians, Styria, and Eastern Alps.
Rootstock cylindrical, oblique or vertical, tufted, covered with thick fibres. Stem erect, 2-4 inches high, leafless or 1-2 leaved, simple, usually 1-flowered, glabrous like the entire plant. Root-leaves stalked, cordate-rounded or reniform, undivided or digitate, or cleft and coarsely crenate, appearing before the flowers. Stem-leaves smaller, linear or wedge-shaped, entire, obtuse, sessile, the base broader and membranous at the margin. leaves somewhat rugose, shining on the upper side. Flowers snow-white. Petals usually 5, obcordate, often 3-lobed. Achenes smooth, glabrous, with a long-hooked beak.
Locally abundant (especially on calcareous soil) in pastures and (lamp, stony places on the Alps from 4000-8500 feet. June, July.
Below the famous Joch Pass, leading from Engelberg to Meiringen, the damp rocks and stony pastures at about 7000 feet are in July purple and white with myriads of blossoms of Primula integrifolia and R. alpestris. But directly one gets west of Switzerland this buttercup becomes rare.
Carpathians, Eastern and Central Alps; rarely in Savoy and Dauphiny; Jura, Eastern and Central Pyrenees.
R. alpestris can be planted in a mixture of peat, loam, and leaf-mould, with a little grit added, but the place must be well drained and with a little shade. Snails must be kept off in the early spring, as they are fond of eating the crowns when just appearing.