Plant Collector: Ranunculus cortusifolius

Not the ordinary field buttercup, Ranunculus cortusifolius

Not the ordinary field buttercup, Ranunculus cortusifolius

I am guessing that some readers may look at the photo and sniff about common old buttercups. Yes this is a buttercup, but not the nasty, weedy one even if the flowers may look similar. There are hundreds of different ranunculus (or should that be ranunculae?) and quite a few of those are what we call buttercups. This species is highly prized as a garden plant, as long as you aren’t offended by the extremely bright yellow flowers. It hails from the Azores and Canary Islands, sitting in the ocean between North Africa and Western Europe. The online references talk about it being perennial. We would describe it more as biennial, similar to a foxglove. It seeds down gently and in the second year it flowers. The plants are fully deciduous, going dormant and dying off in early summer and returning into growth by early winter. This is usually the pattern of plants triggered into growth by autumn rains.

The foliage is soft and not dissimilar to cineraria, though oft described as maple-like in shape. And yes, you can play the game from childhood of “do you like butter?”

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.