In its members, the crowfoot family is many and varied. They range from the little green mouse-tail to the anemones, meadow rues, hepaticas, marsh marigolds, columbines, delphiniums, and buttercups, as well as a number of others. There is little obvious similarity in the flowers; one wonders how the systematic botanists contrived to group all of these plants in the all-inclusive group of the Ranunculaceae, the Crowfoot family. It is believed to be the most primitive group of the flowering plants.
Ranunculus abortivus L.
April - May Lowlands, woods.
The genus Ranunculus was named for Rana, the frog, because of the affinity of certain members to grow in wet places. The buttercups themselves are an ornamental lot, hut there are some other crowfoots which are quite lacking in individual charm. Aside from their interest as plants with their own unique characteristics and manner of growth, one finds little to admire in the small-flowered buttercup.
There they are. the lesser ones, the poor relations in a tribe noteworthy for its beautiful blossoms. The small-flowered buttercup usually has a rosette of leaves which live above ground through the winter. They are broadly oval and scalloped, shiny, and bright green: on a winter day they look very much like too-early violet leaves. But by early April the tuft of leaves has sent up a stout, juicy stalk bearing leaves along it and branches on which are small, brassy-yellow flowers. They are about a fourth-inch wide, star-shaped, with a ball-like center which later becomes seeds.