This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
- Ranunculaceae. May and June are the usual months for flowering, but occasionally it is in blossom at the end of April. Though the characteristic odour from these flowers is sweet, now and then a tree will be found whose every flower gives out a distinctly fishy flavour that is far from pleasant; often, too, it may be found with pink or crimson blossoms. This is the only British species. The name is from the Greek, Kratos, strength, in allusion to the hardness of its wood.
There are three species of Ranunculus to which the name of Buttercup is applied impartially; but the one to which it most properly belongs is the Bulbous Crowfoot (R. bulbosus), in which the cup-shape is more perfect than in the others. We have already dealt with the general characters of the genus in describing the Lesser Celandine: here we will glance only at the specific differences between this and the other buttercup-species of Ranunculus or Crowfoot.
I. Ranunculus acris is the Upright Crowfoot. The rootstock is straight and erect. The lower leaves are divided into wedge-shaped segments, which are again much cut up - the upper leaves less intricately so. The petals are broader than in the Celandine, and fewer - usually five, more or less flat when fully expanded. Flower-stalk not furrowed; sepals spreading. Stem one to three feet high. Meadows and pastures everywhere, June and July.
II. R. repens, the Creeping Crowfoot. Rootstock stout, stem declining, with long runners. Flower-stalk furrowed, sepals spreading, but petals less so than in R. acris. Stein one to two feet. Pastures and waste places, too frequent, May to August.
III. R. bulbosus, Bulbous Crowfoot. Stem erect, half to one foot, greatly swollen at base: no runners. Flower-stalk furrowed, sepals turned back, nearly or quite touching the stalk; petals not spreading, but cup-shaped. Meadows everywhere, April to July.
The name Ranunculus is derived from the Latin, Rana, a frog, in allusion to the damp meadows and the ponds where certain species are to be found in company with frogs.