The photogenic sagebrush buttercup, Ranunculus glaberrimus, usually is the first wildflower to bloom each spring in the Laramie Mountains, southeast Wyoming.
|Sagebrush buttercup petals shine in the sun; flower ca 2 cm across.|
|Sagebrush buttercup growing with sagebrush, as it should (yellow spot just below center).|
Sagebrush buttercup is atypical in other ways ... such as its habitat. Most buttercups prefer moist-to-wet areas, hence the Latin name Ranunculus meaning “little frog”. But this one grows on dry sites, though often close to protective shrubs (maybe more snow accumulates there).
|Ranunculus macounii is a typical buttercup -- likes wet habitat and has deeply-lobed leaves (source).|
Sagebrush buttercup leaves are unusual too. Another common name for buttercups is “crow’s foot” -- for the deeply-lobed leaves. But sagebrush buttercup has basal leaves that are entire or shallowly-lobed at most.
We found these flowers while hiking on a beautiful spring day last week. Now five days later we're in the midst of a blizzard. In the Laramie Mountains it's 3º F and snow is falling. What are the sagebrush buttercups doing? Probably they're hunkered down, protected by snow accumulating beneath the sagebrush. I bet we'll see them again in just a few weeks, in full bloom.
Above and below -- sagebrush buttercup weather report
(courtesy Wyoming Department of Transportation).