AskDefine | Define ranunculus

Dictionary Definition

Ranunculus n : annual, biennial or perennial herbs: buttercup; crowfoot [syn: genus Ranunculus]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Ranunculus



From rānunculus


  1. Any plant of the genus Ranunculus; the buttercup or crowfoot



Diminutive of rāna "frog"


  1. a little frog, polliwog
  2. a type of plant, ranunculus or crowfoot


Extensive Definition

Ranunculus is a large genus of about 400 species of plants in the Ranunculaceae. It includes the buttercups, spearworts, water crowfoots and the lesser celandine (but not the greater celandine of the poppy family Papaveraceae).
They are mostly herbaceous perennials with bright yellow or white flowers (if white, still with a yellow centre); some are annuals or biennials. A few have orange or red flowers and occasionally, as in R. auricomus, petals may be absent. The petals are often highly lustrous, especially in yellow species.
The Water crowfoots (Ranunculus subgenus Batrachium), which grow in still or running water, are sometimes treated in a separate genus Batrachium. They have two different leaf types, thread-like leaves underwater and broader floating leaves although for some species, such as R. aquatilis, a third, intermediate leaf form occurs.
Buttercups usually flower in April or May but flowers may be found throughout the summer especially where the plants are growing as opportunistic colonisers, as in the case of garden weeds.
All Ranunculus species are poisonous when eaten fresh by cattle, horses, and other livestock, but their acrid taste and the blistering of the mouth caused by their poison means they are usually left uneaten. Poisoning can occur where buttercups are abundant in overgrazed fields where little other edible plant growth is left, and the animals eat them out of desperation. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, excessive salivation, colic, and severe blistering of the mucous membranes and gastrointestinal tract. When Ranunculus plants are handled, naturally occurring ranunculin is broken down to form protoanemonin, which is known to cause contact dermatitis in humans and care should therefore be exercised in excessive handling of the plants The toxins are degraded by drying, so hay containing dried buttercups is safe.
Ranunculus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Hebrew Character and Small Angle Shades.
Some species are popular ornamental flowers in horticulture, with many cultivars selected for large and brightly coloured flowers.
In the interior of the Pacific Northwest of the United States the buttercup is called ‘Coyote’s eyes’ — iceyéeyenm sílu in Nez Perce and spilyaynmí áčaš in Sahaptin. In the legend Coyote was tossing his eyes up in the air and catching them again when Eagle snatched them. Unable to see, Coyote made eyes from the buttercup.

Partial species list

and many more


The term sardonic (sardanios) "bitter or scornful laughter", which is often cited as deriving from the Sardinian plant (Ranunculus sardous), known as either (sardanē) or σαρδόνιον (sardonion). When eaten, it would cause the eater's face to contort in a look resembling scorn (generally followed by death). It might also be related to σαίρω (sairō) "I grin".


commons Ranunculus
ranunculus in Czech: Pryskyřník
ranunculus in Danish: Ranunkel
ranunculus in German: Hahnenfuß
ranunculus in Estonian: Tulikas
ranunculus in Spanish: Ranunculus
ranunculus in Esperanto: Ranunkolo
ranunculus in Persian: آلاله
ranunculus in French: Renoncule
ranunculus in Italian: Ranunculus
ranunculus in Hebrew: נורית
ranunculus in Lithuanian: Vėdrynas
ranunculus in Hungarian: Boglárka (nemzetség)
ranunculus in Dutch: Boterbloem
ranunculus in Japanese: ラナンキュラス
ranunculus in Polish: Jaskier
ranunculus in Romanian: Ranunculus
ranunculus in Russian: Лютик
ranunculus in Simple English: Buttercup
ranunculus in Finnish: Leinikit
ranunculus in Swedish: Smörblommor
ranunculus in Ukrainian: Пшінка
ranunculus in Walloon: Ranonke
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