The buttercups are a contradictory tribe. They may be brilliant gold with a sheen like gold leaf, or they may be dull and greenish and small, and quite unbeautiful in the springtime of the year. Two of the most ornamental of the buttercups are these - the swamp buttercup of the wet places, and the early crowfoot (Ranunculus fascicularis) which blooms at about the same time or a little earlier, but chooses clay hillsides as its native haunt.
Ranunculus septentrionalis Poir.
April. Swamps, hillsides.
They have compound leaves and five-petaled. glistening gold flowers with tufted golden centers which sparkle in the April sun. The buttercups start out as neat and compact plants with many short stems and leaves springing in a tuft from the fibrous root. But when April is almost over and still the buttercups put forth bloom, the plants send out runners with new plants on the ends. Outward they stretch and take root wherever they find a place to stop and send in their white little roots. No wonder the buttercups spread themselves so thoroughly and so brilliantly when April comes. With their abundant seeds and their spreading runners, they have two means by which they increase themselves. The swamp buttercup is the more prolific of the two, has rounder, larger, brighter flowers than the early crowfoot. The latter has a more compact plant and much more deeply cut and more compact leaves, and star-shaped flowers with narrow, pale yellow petals. There on the sunny hillside under the oaks the early crowfoot blooms, while down in the marshy place near the pond the ground is golden with swamp buttercups. To both flit the little silvery blue butterflies and the earliest bees of spring.