Eloise Butler

The Writings of Eloise Butler

Anemones, Hepaticas and Buttercups Prominent in Crowfoot Family Here

Published in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune April 30, 1911

[Note: To facilitate identification of plants, we have taken the liberty of adding the information that is within brackets and also all the botanical names have been put into italics. The language of Eloise's day is left as written. Additional notes at the bottom of the page.]

tall buttercup
Tall Buttercup, Ranunculus acris

A number of the early flowering plants are members of the crowfoot family (Ref. #1) [such] as the anemones and buttercups. In the divided leaves of a crowfoot, as some of the buttercups are called, the early botanists saw a resemblance to a bird’s foot.

The buttercups of Minnesota are not so much in evidence as the tall European [Tall] Buttercup [Ranunculus acris ] the pest of the hay fields - farther east.

One early species, Ranunculus abortivus, [Littleleaf (or Kidneyleaf) Buttercup] has so small a flower that a novice would scarcely notice it, and is surprised to hear it named a buttercup. Neither would a child be likely to apply the time-worn test of holding the flower to your face to learn if you love butter.

Kidneyleaf Buttercup
Littleleaf Buttercup, Ranunculus abortivus

This lowly buttercup [her text omits the common name] blooms sparsely on the prairie with the pasque flower. The specific name rhomboideus [prairie buttercup] indicates the shape of the leaf.

The low, tufted R. fascicularis [Early buttercup] has a larger flower, but is not conspicuously massed.

Our two prettiest buttercups are aquatics - one with shining, yellow petals; the other with smaller white flowers and long, railing stems; and both bearing finely dissected leaves.

The large Crowfoot family is without strongly marked characters. Its plants have usually an acrid taste; the leaves are generally more or less cut or divided; the corolla is often wanting, and, when this is the case, the calyx is colored like a corolla; the stamens are numerous; the pistils vary in number from one to several; and all the parts of the flower are distinct or unconnected.

Prairie Buttercup
Prairie Buttercup, Ranunculus rhomboideus. Photo ©Derek Anderson, Wisconsin Flora.
Early Buttercup
Early Buttercup, Ranunculus fascicularis. Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

All these points may be verified in the hepatica, or liverleaf, now in bloom along the river banks. It seems somewhat incongruous to associate a name so musical and a flower so beautiful with anything so prosaic as the liver. Yet hepatica is “liver” in Greek, and some herbalist, long ago, made the comparison, when he saw the three-lobed leaf. The leaves endure through the winter and their rich tints of bonze and purple garnish the tuft of lovely flowers varying through all shades of blue and lilac to white.


The lighter tones are found in the older and more exposed flowers. Just under the flower, and separated from it by a very short stem, are three green leaves or bracts, as leaves on flower stems are technically named - which exactly imitate a calyx, thus fooling the unwary. When the flowers go to seed, new leaves appear. Several plants get their flower work done early, before they are shaded by the leaves, which unfold later to prepare the food for the next year’s flowers and seeds.

The hepatica is closely allied to the anemones. Two species are found in Minnesota - one with sharp-lobed and one with round-lobed leaves (Ref. #2). The sharp-lobed species only, is indigenous to Minneapolis; but both have been planted in the wild garden in Glenwood Park.

1. Crowfoof Family, (Ranunculaceae) -in current times this family is now called the Buttercup Family
2. Sharp-lobed Hepatica is now classified as Anemone acutiloba and Round-lobed is classified as Anemone americana.

More information and photos on some of these plant can be found under these links:
Littleleaf Buttercup

Tall Buttercup

Hepatica (Sharp and Round Lobe)