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

Ranunculus nivalis L.
snow buttercup
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Allan Carson  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #17822)

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Distribution of Ranunculus nivalis
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from short rhizomes with clusters of fibrous roots, with a stem base wrapped in brown, old leaf sheaths; stems stout, soft and fleshy, erect, 10-25 cm tall, smooth or sparsely-hairy.
Basal leaves persistent or deciduous, kidney-shaped, 3-parted, 0.6-2 cm long, 1.3-3 cm wide, the lateral segments and sometimes also the terminal segment again lobed or toothed, margins fringed, otherwise generally smooth, tips round-pointed, bases heart-shaped to squared-off, the stalks 1-5 cm long; stem leaves 1 to 3, alternate, short-stalked to unstalked, transitional to the unstalked, deeply 3- to 5-lobed bracts.
Inflorescence a 1- to 3-flowered terminal cyme; flower stalks brown-hairy or rarely smooth; receptacle smooth; petals 5 (6), distinct, yellow, 8-11 mm long, 7-12 mm wide, nectary on upper surface, small, the scale smooth; sepals 5, early deciduous or persistent, 6-8 mm long, 3-5 mm wide, densely brown stiff-hairy; stamens 70 or more; pistils 40-50.
Achenes, numerous (40 to 50) in a cylindric to egg-shaped head 7-14 mm long, 5-6 mm wide, the achenes egg-shaped, 1.5-2.2 mm long, 1.2-1.6 mm wide, smooth, obscurely keeled; beaks persistent, slender, 1-2 mm long, straight.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Moist to wet streambanks, seepage sites, meadows, snowbeds and scree slopes in the subalpine and alpine zones; frequent in BC N of 55degreeN and E of the Coast Mountains; circumboreal, N to AK, YT and NT and E to Labr. and Greenland; Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Ranunculus nivalis

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) 1520 1683 2240
Slope Gradient (%) 0 16 70
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
20 59 350
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 5 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: BAFA(15), cma(1), ESSF(1), SWB(2)


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 nivalis var. sulphureus (Sol. ex C.J. Phipps) Wahlenb.
Ranunculus sulphureus var. intercedens Hultén

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References