The Buttercup Family

Ranunculaceae is a family of flowering plants also known as the "buttercup family" or "crowfoot family". The family name is derived from the genus Ranunculus. Members include Anemone (anemones), Ranunculus (buttercups), Aconitum (aconite) and Clematis. Ranuncula is Latin for "little frog," the diminutive of rana.

According to the database of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the family consists of 51 to 88 genera, totaling about 2500 species. Numerically the most important genera are Ranunculus (600 species), Delphinium (365 species), Thalictrum (330 species), Clematis (325 species) and Aconitum (300 species).

Ranunculaceae can be found worldwide, but are most common in the temperate and cold areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The family contains many ornamental flowering plants common to the Himalayan Mountains, some of which are of medicinal value.

The flowers of this family exhibit a trait called protogyny. This term means that the male flower part (stigma) begins shedding pollen before the pistil is receptive. This generally eliminates self-pollination and encourages cross-pollination and outbreeding.

Monkshood Winter Aconite
Baneberry Japanese Wood Poppy
Pheasant's Eye Hellebores
Columbine Hepatica
Anemone Goldenseal
Rue Anemone False Rue
Marsh Marigold Nigella
Bugbane Pasque Flower
Royal Knight's Spur Buttercup
Delphinium Meadow Rue
False Rue Anemone Globeflower

Note on Taxonomy - Plant taxonomy is the art and science of classifying plants into groupings in order to help people make sense of the huge diversity found in the world. The people who do this for a living are called taxonomists. They are continually evaluating and re-evaluating how plants are classified. For example, with the recent emergence of DNA analysis, many plants have been changing classification.

Also, there is no one, single universal classification system for plants. Rather, there is a lot of debate among taxonomists which may lead to confusion for the average gardener. That is why, in these family listings, you often see the words "about" or "around" when counting the number of genera or species to include. It is also why new families are created and some of the old ones suddenly fade away. So, don't be surprised if you find slightly different information at other sites or sources. Oh, well.


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