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

Ranunculus eschscholtzii Schltdl.
subalpine buttercup (Eschscholtz's buttercup)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #73158)

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Distribution of Ranunculus eschscholtzii
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from a compact, erect stem base, covered with withered leaf bases, with a cluster of fibrous roots; stems 1 to several, erect, 5-25 cm tall, usually smooth, not hollow.
Basal leaves persistent, kidney- or heart- or egg-shaped to broadly oblong, usually 3-parted, sometimes 3-lobed, the blades 0.5-4 cm long, 0.8-3.7 cm wide, the central segment 3-lobed to entire, the lateral segments 3- to 4-lobed, tips usually rounded, the stalks 1-8 cm long; stem leaves usually absent, sometimes 1 or 2, alternate, shorter-stalked, transitional to the unstalked, 3-lobed to -parted bracts; leaves usually smooth except fringed on margins.
Inflorescence a 1- to 3-flowered cyme; flower stalks stout, 2-12 cm long, smooth; receptacle smooth or sparsely soft-hairy; petals 5 to 8, distinct, yellow, broadly egg-shaped, 6-16 mm long, 4-16 mm wide, nectary on upper surface, the scale about 0.5 mm long, smooth; sepals 5, spreading, early deciduous, usually purplish-tinged, 4-8 mm long, 2-6 mm wide, usually yellow wavy-hairy; stamens (20) 40-125; pistils (20) 30-80.
Achenes, numerous in a cylindric to egg-shaped head 5-10 mm long, 4-7 mm wide, the achenes egg-shaped, 1.4-2 mm long, 1-1.6 mm wide, smooth or sparsely hairy, margins evident; beaks persistent, slender, 0.6-1.8 mm long, straight or somewhat curved.
This highly variable species has sometimes been separated into either three taxa at the specific or varietal level (Brayshaw 1989, Whittemore 1997) or two taxa at the varietal level (Hitchcock et al. 1964, Douglas et al. 1991) in BC. Because large populations of plants, especially in SE BC, sometimes have plants with somewhat pointed leaves as well as the more common roundish leaf tips, some botanists have recognized them as either R. eximius or R. suksdorfii. During a study of R. suksdorfii in W North America, Fisher et al. (1979) were unable to locate the latter species in BC and reidentified BC R. suksdorfii material to R. eschscholtzii. We prefer to treat this complex, at least in BC, as one variable species.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Early Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist meadows, heath, streambanks, shores, scree and talus slopes, and forest openings from the upper montane to alpine zones; common in S BC, less frequent northward; N to AK, YT and NT, E to SW AB and S to CO, UT, AZ, NM and CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Ranunculus eschscholtzii

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) 16 1915 2562
Slope Gradient (%) 0 25 300
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 203 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 8
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: AT(71), BAFA(76), BG(1), BWBS(1), CMA(2), CWH(1), ESSF(353), ICH(2), IMA(18), MH(7), MS(2), SBS(6), SWB(10)

Ecological Indicator Information

A very shade-intolerant, subalpine to alpine, Asian and Western North American forb distributed equally in the Pacific and Cordilleran regions. Occurs in alpine tundra and subalpine boreal climates on very moist to wet, nitrogenĀ­rich soils (Moder and Mull humus forms); its occurrence increases with increasing latitude. Common in non-forested, meadow-like and stream-edge communities on seepage or flooded sites. Characteristic of alpine and subalpine communities

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


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 alpine tundra & boreal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Ranunculus eschscholtzii var. alpinus (S. Watson) C.L. Hitchc.
Ranunculus eschscholtzii var. eschscholtzii Schltdl.
Ranunculus eschscholtzii var. eximius (Greene) L.D. Benson
Ranunculus eximius Greene

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References