Ranunculus triternatus

If it isn’t too much to have two similar-looking buttercup family representatives in a row, here are some images from just over a week ago.

Ranunculus triternatus (syn. Ranunculus reconditus) is an almost-endemic to the Columbia Gorge area of Washington and Oregon. A single location near Elko, Nevada and another in southeastern Idaho have also been reported. However, there is little information about the latter two reports online that I can find–most seem to be derived from the Flora of North America account for Ranunculus triternatus. Two common names are in use for the species, obscure buttercup and Dalles Mountain buttercup (the latter referring to the area where it is found near in Washington and Oregon).

Most research and conservation monitoring work has been done with the Washington and Oregon populations. According to the Center for Plant Conservation, ten occurrences of Ranunculus triternatus are known in these states: “In WA, 8 occurrences known since 1987. Populations range from “100+” to “several hundred.” One other occurrence was reported in 1938, but the location data is not complete. Either it cannot be re-located, or it has been extirpated (WNHP 2000). 2 occurrences are currently known in Oregon with population numbers ranging from 50 to 800 (ONHP 2000).”. I suppose that puts the number of individual plants worldwide at around 3500 +/- a thousand or so. I observed about seventy in flower during my brief visit to the area on a cloudy late afternoon.

As noted by Paul Slichter on his page for Ranunculus triternatus (includes additional photos!), the species “is found primarily in fairly undisturbed grasslands or areas of mixed grasslands and sagebrush. Plants are generally found in deeper soils among bunch grasses rather than in the thinner rocky poorer soils which are frequently found on the hillsides”.

Additional photographs are available via the Oregon Flora Image Project (Ranunculus triternatus) and a scan of a specimen collected by Thomas Howell is available via Oregon State University Herbarium: Ranunculus triternatus.

I also had a request from a BPotD reader to include a bit of a photographic information from time to time. For these photographs, and for most photographs of buttercup flowers, I often find it necessary to underexpose the image. A camera-metered exposure will often blow out the yellows or introduce white spots on the petals due to the petals’ high reflectivity (you can see the white spotting beginning to occur on the last photo). A polarizer can also be useful, but it is perhaps more important to make the photographic attempt on a cloudy day. I had also photographed some Ranunculus occidentalis this day, but I’ve thrown away most of those images because they were taken in the sun and no detail was left in the flower petals (I kept a couple for reference to remind me that it was out in bloom in the region on that date).

Ranunculus triternatus
Ranunculus triternatus
Ranunculus triternatus

10 responses to “Ranunculus triternatus”

  1. Christine Owens

    Thank you for including the photographic details. They’re very helpful.
    Also, I’ve got to say that the top photo took my breath away. That spot of yellow in the sea of beiges and browns just sings. Beautiful.

  2. Karen Stuber

    I agree with Christine and she said it so beautifully. The stark contrast made this photograph stunning.

  3. Irma in Sweden

    Agree that the photos are beautiful and the tiny very bright yellow speck in the middle of all that brown.

  4. Eleanor Ryasn

    Lovely buttercup. Thanks for finding and remembering this rare plant. Oregonians will be alert for it. Warmly–Eleanor

  5. Jane Srivastava

    Love the bright yellow on this rainy day (don’t suppose it’s as rainy in the Gorge…).

  6. Wendy Cutler

    What Christine and Karen and Irma said. That little buttercup just makes my heart sing.

  7. Cherries Walks

    Determining those Ranunculus’ was a nightmare during my botany course for becoming a Hiking Guide in the Alps! Never saw one I didnt think was beautiful though…

  8. Bonnie

    Growing up in Pennsylvania this was a common plant so I was pleased to see it here. As children we would hold the flower under anothers chin to see if the reflection showed. If it did it was said you liked butter. 🙂

  9. Mary Beth Borchardt

    Stunning yellow!
    Beautiful. Loved the contrast in 1st shot. Appreciate the series of shots–so much a help in realizing the site, then the up close.

  10. elizabeth a airhart

    i am a little late for the ladies club meeting
    i agree with the above comments and move that they
    be entered into the record book will it be the same time come april

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