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common name for the Ranunculaceae, a family of chiefly annual or perennial herbs of cool regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Thought to be one of the most primitive families of dicotyledenous plantsplant,
any organism of the plant kingdom, as opposed to one of the animal kingdom or of the kingdoms Fungi, Protista, or Monera in the five-kingdom system of classification.
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, the Ranunculaceae typically have a simple flower structure in which each flower part may be separate rather than fused into a single organ (see flowerflower,
name for the specialized part of a plant containing the reproductive organs, applied to angiosperms only. A flower may be thought of as a modified, short, compact branch bearing lateral appendages.
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). Many buttercups are aquatic plants, hence the Latin name for the genus Ranunculus [little frog]. The family includes numerous familiar wildflowers and many cultivated ornamentals. Well-known representatives are the aconiteaconite
, monkshood,
or wolfsbane,
any of several species of the genus Aconitum of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family), hardy perennial plants of the north temperate zone, growing wild or cultivated for ornamental or medicinal purposes.
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, anemoneanemone
or windflower,
any of the perennial herbs, wild or cultivated, of the genus Anemone of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family). A rich legendary history has gained the anemone many names and attributes.
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, baneberrybaneberry,
any plant of the small genus Actaea, north temperate perennials of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family) sometimes cultivated for the handsome (though poisonous) berrylike fruits.
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, bugbanebugbane,
any plant of the genus Cimicifuga, tall north-temperate perennials of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family). The white spirelike bloom has a rank odor that attracts flies, which pollinate the plant. Common in woodlands of E North America is C.
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, clematisclematis
, any plant of the large genus Clematis (sometimes subdivided into three or four genera), widely distributed herbs or vines of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family), many of them native to the United States. Some have an irritating sap.
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 (one of the few vine genera), columbinecolumbine
, any plant of the genus Aquilegia, temperate-zone perennials of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family), popular both as wildflowers and as garden flowers. Columbines have delicate and attractive foliage and flower petals with long spurs that secrete nectar.
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, globeflowerglobeflower,
common name for any plant of the genus Trollius of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family), hardy perennials of north temperate meadows and swamps.
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, helleborehellebore
, name usually for plants of the genus Helleborus of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family), Eurasian perennials with attractive palmately divided leaves and flowers of various colors.
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, hepaticahepatica
or liverleaf,
any plant of the genus Hepatica of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family), low, woodland, spring wildflowers of the north temperate zone, popular for wild gardens.
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, larkspurlarkspur,
any north temperate, Old World annual of the genus Consolida of the buttercup family. Consolida species were formerly classified in the genus Delphinium,
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, love-in-a-mistlove-in-a-mist,
hardy annual garden plant (Nigella damascena) of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family), having finely cut foliage and blue or white flowers surrounded by a cluster of thready bracts.
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, marsh marigoldmarsh marigold,
perennial spring-blooming Old World and North American plant (Caltha palustris) of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family), found in wet places. It has rounded glossy leaves and large buttercuplike flowers of bright and shining yellow.
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 (the American cowslip), meadow ruemeadow rue,
any plant of the genus Thalictrum of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family). Most are tall perennials (up to 7 ft/2.1 m high) bearing summer flowers with showy, pendent tassels of long stamens, greenish sepals, and no petals.
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, and peonypeony
, any plant of the genus Paeonia of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family, although placed in the order Dilleniales as a separate family, the Paeoniaceae, by many modern botanists), mostly Eurasian species popular as garden and florists' flowers.
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The largest genus, Ranunculus, comprises the buttercups and crowfoots, names often used interchangeably. Found throughout arctic, north temperate, and alpine regions, with species in the Andes and in subantarctic areas, this genus is characterized by glossy yellow flowers (hence the name buttercup) and deeply cut leaves (supposedly resembling crows' feet). Like some other members of the family, species of this genus contain an acrid juice that makes them unpalatable for livestock and in some species poisonous. A dozen or more species are common in every part of the United States. Among those cultivated for garden and cut flowers are some double-blossomed Old World species, e.g., the turban, or Persian, buttercup (R. asiaticus), valued for the variety of its colors (all but blue), and the creeping buttercup (R. repens), native to both North America and Europe. The fig buttercup (R. ficaria), or lesser celandine—a name more commonly applied to some plants of the poppypoppy,
common name for some members of the Papaveraceae, a family composed chiefly of herbs of the Northern Hemisphere having a characteristic milky or colored sap. Most species are native to the Old World; many are cultivated in gardens for their brilliantly colored if
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 family—is native to W Eurasia. It is considered an invasive plant in North America.

The buttercup family is classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Magnoliopsida, order Ranunculales.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the popular name for certain herbaceous plants, predominantly with yellow flowers. Plants of the genus Ranunculus, primarily the species Ranunculus acris, are most often called buttercups. R. acris is a perennial, measuring 20–80 cm. tall, with a hairy stem and generally digitipartite leaves. The flowers are golden-yellow, on long peduncles; they bloom at the beginning of the summer. R. acris grows in the temperate zone of Eurasia; in the USSR it is found in meadows, forest glades, brushwood, and forests in the European USSR, Western Siberia, and Middle Asia. It is poisonous: the juice produces severe burns on the skin and causes tearing and sharp pain in the eyes. The buttercup is a meadow weed, rarely eaten by cattle.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


traditional symbol of wealth. [Plant Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 167]
See: Wealth
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


any of various yellow-flowered ranunculaceous plants of the genus Ranunculus, such as R. acris (meadow buttercup), which is native to Europe but common throughout North America
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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The saying goes, if your chin reflects the yellow of the buttercup flower when held it, then you like butter.
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