Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Water-plantain Spearwort - Ranunculus ambigens   S. Watson
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Section 6 » Order Ranunculales » Family Ranunculaceae
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AuthorS. Watson
DistributionKnown from only three or four records in the northeastern part of the state -- Perquimans and Bertie counties in 1958, and Orange County in 1963. Sadly, it is long historical in the state.

This is a scarce, Northern species; it ranges from ME and MI south to northern NC and TN.
AbundanceOf historical occurrence; formerly very rare even into the 1950s and early 1960s, but no known records since 1963. As it is scattered over eastern and central VA, with records from two counties that border NC, it could certainly be re-discovered in the northern part of the state -- especially as counties in the extreme northern Coastal Plain are very poorly botanized. It is State listed as Special Concern - Historical.
HabitatThe habitats recorded on the specimens from NC are "ditch", "roadside ditch", and "marshy pasture". This is a species of mostly sunny wetlands, typically in marshes, but also in man-altered sites such as ditches and wet meadows. The species often grows in mud, at times where shaded such as in swamp openings.
PhenologyBlooms from April to June, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis buttercup is quite different from about all of the other 12 native species in NC and should be readily identified if spotted. It has rather robust yet hollow stems, at times rooting from nodes, growing up to 2-3' long, generally ascending to somewhat erect. It is a notably "narrow and vertical" species, almost grasslike in appearance at a distance. The leaves (stem) are quite long and narrow, with lower leaves having sheathing petioles (wrapping around the stem); the blades can be 6" long and 1" wide, being entire and lanceolate. Upper leaves are gradually smaller, but all are slender. At the tips of several branches grow the rather small solitary flowers, with the 5 bright yellow petals about as long as the 5 duller yellow sepals; each flower is about 1/2" across. It the species is not seen in bloom, to let the biologist know it is a buttercup, most biologists would pass over the plant, or at least spot it and be puzzled as to what genus or family it might be placed. Considering that it is still present in VA (though presumably declining), and as ditches are quite common everywhere, there is plenty of potential habitat for it to be re-discovered in northeastern NC.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Water-plantain Crowfoot
State RankSH
Global RankG4
State StatusSC-H
US Status
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