Bur Buttercup Fruits

Bur buttercup (Ceratocephalus testiculatus, formerly Ranunculus testiculatus) is one of our earliest wildflowers to bloom, appearing immediately after the snow melts. It is also very short-lived. Once it appears, it is only days before the fruits are mature and the plant withers away.

This member of the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae), introduced from Eastern Europe and Asia, has become a noxious weed in much of its North American range. Growing in disturbed places, bur buttercup contains the acrid, volatile oil protoanemonin and is poisonous. Livestock, particularly sheep, searching for green herbage that is rare in the early spring often consume bur buttercup with adverse effects.

An annual, bur buttercup has basal leaves that are finely dissected once or twice and are sparsely to finely woolly. The small, solitary flowers on long, hairy stalks are yellow. More information about bur buttercups can be found in my earlier post on the subject (04-12-13).

Bur buttercup fruits are ellipsoidal achenes clustered in a cylindrical head.The fruits are woolly hairy, beaked, unveined and have a thick wall.

The new genus name, Ceratocephalus, derives from the Greek and means horned head in reference to the fruits (keras/horn and kephale/head). The specific epithet means “like testicles” in Latin.

These plants were growing in our pasture near Lookout CA (Modoc County) in late March and early April.

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3 Responses to Bur Buttercup Fruits

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Weird specific epithet


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