Recently waterfall false buttercup was moved from Ranunculus to Kumlienia. Thus the scientific name of this native perennial is seen as both Kumlienia hystricula and Ranunculus hystriculus in the literature. Thure Ludwig Thoedor Kumlien (1819 – 1880), a pioneer ornithologist and naturalist, is honored by the new genus designation. The species derives from the Greek “hystrix” (porcupine) and means “like a porcupine”, probably in reference to waterfall false buttercup’s beaked fruits.
Waterfall false buttercup is endemic to the Sierra Nevada of California. Its habitat is wet places near streams, especially near waterfalls, between about 1,000 and 6,000 feet. These specimens were growing next to an unnamed (probably seasonal) waterfall along the Wapama Falls Trail (Hetch Hetchy) at Yosemite National Park CA.
The erect waterfall false buttercup stem arises from a short caudex (stem thickening, usually underground). The basal leaves are semicircular or reniform (kidney shaped) and shallowly 5 to 7 lobed. The petiole is long. The cauline (stem) leaves are alternate, unlobed and scale-like.
The 5 or 6 sepals are white and look like petals. The actual waterfall false buttercup petals are shiny yellow-green and curve about the center of the bloom. These petals are developed as nectaries. The flower has many stamens and pistils.
Waterfall false buttercup fruits are cylindrical achenes with papery walls and strong veins. The achene has a longitudinal beak with a thread-like hook.