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Sagebrush Buttercup — Pretty and toxic

By on April 23, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Jaana Hatton

You may have noticed these little wildflowers as far back as the end of March.

The bright yellow blooms of the diminutive (3-4 inches) Sagebrush Buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus) are hard to ignore. It grows on dry soil in sunny locations, such as our hillsides.

The name ranunculus means “little frog” and “glaberrimus” translates to “the smoothest.”

I warn you, though: don’t touch this smooth little froggie — it has toxic properties.

Sagebrush Buttercup contains acrid oil which may damage the liver and the kidneys, blister the skin and bring on vomiting. It is no wonder the Okanogan-Colville Indians applied a little flower power to poison coyote bait. They also rubbed the plant on arrow points for an added nasty effect.

Now, take this flower and dry it: everything changes. Suddenly it’s a beneficial herb.

Used dehydrated, Sagebrush Buttercup can relieve the discomfort of bruises and arthritis. It can even be used in lice removal.

Sagebrush Buttercup

One source (www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com) stated it may help stimulate mild paralysis.

The Okanagan-Colville Indians knew this long before we did, as they used Sagebrush Buttercup poultices to cure all manner of aches.

If you want to meet Sagebrush Buttercup up close and personal, look for an herbaceous (no woody growth) plant with usually five bright yellow petals and a stalk 3-4 inches tall in dry terrain.  The leaves are elliptic or ovate, 3-lobed.

They bloom from late March until early May, maybe even longer. The plant remains green all through the growing season. If you inspect it again in the fall, you will find the new buds all set for next spring.

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