E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Ranunculus californicus Benth.
California buttercup
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Hans Roemer  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #10696)

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Distribution of Ranunculus californicus
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Species Information

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Perennial, or occasionally annual, herb from slender, fibrous root mass; stems several, ascending to prostrate, but not rooting at nodes, 20-60 cm tall/long, stiff- or soft-hairy or smooth, somewhat hollow.
Extremely variable, egg- to heart-shaped, 3-lobed or -parted to pinnate, 2-6 cm long, 2-7.5 cm wide, the leaflets undivided or 1- or 2-times lobed or parted, the ultimate segments linear to circular, margins toothed or entire, smooth or hairy, the stalks 3-20 cm long; stem leaves alternate, shorter-stalked, transitional to the upper linear to oblong bracts.
Inflorescence a few- to many-flowered cyme; flower stalks to 15 cm long; receptacle usually smooth; petals 9 to 17, distinct, yellow, oblong to oblanceolate, 7-14 mm long, 2-6 mm wide, nectary on upper surface, the nectary scale smooth, about 0.7 mm long; sepals 5, bent back about 2-3 mm from base, often early deciduous, greenish or reddish-tinged, 4-8 mm long, 2-4 mm wide, soft-hairy; stamens 40-80; pistils 15-40.
Achenes, 15 to 40 in a globe-shaped head 3-7 mm long, 4-9 mm wide, the achenes broadly egg-shaped, 1.8-3.2 mm long, 1.4-3.2 mm wide, about 1/3 as thick, usually smooth, margins distinct, slightly keeled; beaks stout at base, lanceolate, curved, 0.2-0.8 mm long.
Whittemore (1997) speculated that because no collections of this species had been made in BC before 1978, this species should be treated as an introduction. In fact, our first collection was made on Trial Island in 1952. No earlier plant collections are known from Trial Island, but there is no reason to believe it is a recent arrival on the island. Many other rare native species in the Victoria area were not discovered or did not become well known until collection activities increased in the 1960's. This species forms hybrid swarms with R. occidentalis in our area.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Mesic to dry, grassy coastal bluffs and meadows; rare on extreme SE Vancouver Island and adjacent islands; S to CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

"Ranunculus californicus is one of a group of species that are described by Ceska and Ceska (1997, 1999) that occur from California to the Columbia River Gorge, are usually rare or missing in Washington State and then occur on southeastern Vancouver Island. The list of species includes Limnanthes macounii, Allium amplectens, Crassula connata, Dryopteris arguta, Ranunculus californicus, Isoetes nuttallii, Juncus kelloggii, Microseris bigelovii, Montia howellii, Myrica californica, Trifolium depauperatum, Vulpia pacifica, Woodwardia fimbriata, and Triphysaria versicolor." Klinkenberg and Klinkenberg (2003).


Klinkenberg, Brian and Rose Klinkenberg. 2003. Stewardship Account for California Buttercup (Ranunculus californicus Benth.). Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team, Victoria.

Read the COSEWIC status report.


Ecological Framework for Ranunculus californicus

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 1535 1535 1535
Slope Gradient (%) 28 28 28
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
150 149 150
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
5 5 5
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: ESSF(1)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Ranunculus californicus var. austromontanus L.D. Benson
Ranunculus californicus var. cuneatus Greene
Ranunculus californicus var. gratus Jeps.
Ranunculus californicus var. rugulosus (Greene) L.D. Benson
Ranunculus californicus var. typicus L.D. Benson
Ranunculus rugulosus Greene

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References