What is Ranunculus?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 29 April 2019
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Ranunculus is a plant genus that contains around 600 different species. Most Ranunculus plants are bright in color and live for longer than two years. Despite the plants attractive coloring, they are all poisonous to eat, and most have an unappealing taste that usually causes animals to avoid them. Some of the most common examples of Ranunculus plants include spearworts and buttercups.

The name Ranunculus comes from the Latin for "little frog." Although the true reason for why the genus was named after frogs is unknown, it is probably because the species are often found close to water. There is some variation in the names of species within the genus across the world. The buttercup, for example, is named the Coyote's eyes in parts of North America. Other examples of common plants in the genus include the crowfoot and celandine.

Most Ranunculus plants are perennials. This is the term used to describe plants that flower for three or more seasons in a lifetime. Unlike many other plants, perennials die back during the autumn and winter months, only to return in spring. There are, however, species that are biennials which flower for two seasons, and annuals which only flower for one season. Most of the plants in the genus are herbaceous, which means that the stems and leaves return to ground level after the growing season.


The petals of Ranunculus plants are often bright and attractive. Many of the species have either yellow or white petals, but some have other colors. A Ranunculus flower, in most cases, has five petals. There are exceptions, however, including plants that have significantly more petals than this.

Flowering season for plants of the genus varies depending on the exact species. In general, the plants will flower near the end of April and early May. some plants may bloom throughout the summer, however. For this reason, gardeners often use the plants to brighten up areas of the garden during the summer months.

Sometimes Ranunculus can cause a problem for livestock, including sheep and cattle. This is due to the plant's toxicity. If a field is overgrown with the plants, it may be difficult to prevent livestock from eating them. This can cause a range of symptoms, including internal blistering and diarrhea. Humans handling large quantities of plants contained within the genus may suffer from skin irritation.



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