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ORRIN MORRIS: Tiny, strange flowers adorn the littleleaf buttercup

Tiny, strange flowers adorn the littleleaf buttercup

According to the Weather Channel, 27 degrees Fahrenheit is the record low for April 19. I remember a strange spring in 2007 when an Easter freeze created a new agenda for planting our gardens. The typical growing pattern of wildflowers was altered, too. Some that bloomed before the freeze were abruptly ended while others were prevented from blooming. Still, others seem to be right on schedule.

In general, seasonal variations are expected to be mild and temporary at worst. Nevertheless, most species of wildflowers have adapted a timetable for sprouting, flowering, fruiting and dying that can be disrupted by unexpected circumstances. Today's wildflower has the appearance of a victim of such circumstances.

LITTLELEAF BUTTERCUP

Ranunculus abortivus

This wildflower is a strange addition to our collection. It looks like a casualty of a toxic chemical spill or a spring freeze.

At first glance, it appears as an angular mass of leggy stems with whorls of leaves from which the plants extend secondary branches. At the end of the branches are what appears to be light green buds. But no -- the light green knots have tiny yellow petals. They are actually tiny, strange flowers.

The inset depicts a close-up view of the flower. The littleleaf buttercup has 18 to 20 stamens, six yellow petals and six small green bracts. The plant stands as tall as 24 inches. The leaves are medium green with whitish-green undersides.

The basal leaves often have the shape of a kidney but vary according to the depth of the cuts in the leaf. That kidney shape has inspired another popular name for this plant, kidneyleaf buttercup.

The leaves along the stems are narrow with toothed edges toward the ground and pinnate toward the top. Littleleaf buttercups bloom from March to August depending on the weather. They are most likely found on the margin of woods and in damp thickets.

Many plants and trees damaged by the 2007 freeze were slow to recover. Some never bore fruit or nuts that year; however, there were many unexpected blessings as the timetables of some species ignored the consequences of the freeze.

Whatever the circumstances, the lessons from a spring freeze lead us to join the psalmist to say, "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers.