Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Bristly Buttercup - Ranunculus hispidus   Michaux
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Section 6 » Order Ranunculales » Family Ranunculaceae
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DistributionThroughout the mountains and Piedmont; present in the western edge of the Coastal Plain; disjunct record in Onslow County.

This is a very numerous and widespread species from southeastern Canada south to central FL and central TX. It is found in most counties within this range.
AbundanceCommon and very widespread in the mountains and Piedmont, probably the most often seen forest buttercup species in these regions. Rare in the northwestern Coastal Plain edge, and likely absent or very rare in the Sandhills region. Essentially absent nearly everywhere else in the Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis is a buttercup of a great variety of mesic to moist forests. It favors fairly rich to rich forests, but it also grows in bottomland forests and in somewhat drier upland forests. It certainly favors full shade and is not normally found in edges or large sunlit openings.
PhenologyBlooms from March to June, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a rather standard buttercup, one to which others are often compared owing to its general abundance and widespread occurrence in wooded settings. It grows normally (flowering stem) to about 1 foot tall, but the several basal leaves only reach about 4-6 inches high. These leaves are strongly divided/cleft into 3 segments, but each segment is mostly about 1/2-inch wide or wider; the leaf itself is about as wide as long, with quite hairy petioles. The several flowering stems extend much beyond the leaves; they grow from the plant base and usually have a few small dissected leaves. Each stalk is topped by a bright yellow flower, composed of 5 shiny, obovate petals, with the spread flower being large for a buttercup at around 1-inch across. The green sepals below the petals are spreading, an important field character. The very similar R. septentrionalis tends to be more colonial, with stolons that root at the nodes, and its sepals are reflexed (swept back) when in full bloom; it also is restricted mostly to damp, flat forested places such as bottomlands and drier places in swamps. R. fascicularis is very rare in NC and limited to dry, high pH soils in the far western mountains; its leaves are more finely divided into usually 5 segments or more, and the overall leaf shape is longer than wide. Observers who look for spring wildflowers on forest walks will typically see this species on most trips; in fact, it might often be one of the more frequently seen yellow-colored flowers on the forest floor at that season.
Taxonomic CommentsThis species has often been split out into new species, or varieties, by many authors. Or, as in the case of RAB (1968), other species have been erroneously dumped into this very widespread species. Weakley (2018) does not list varieties for R. hispidus, though many current ones do.

Other Common Name(s)Hairy Buttercup, Hispid Buttercup, Rough Buttercup
State RankS5
Global RankG5
State StatusW6
US Status
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