Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a wild flower that seems unremarkable, yet as always when dealing with nature – there’s always something of interest to be discovered.
Ranunculus multifidus (Common Buttercup in English, Botterblom in Afrikaans and hlapi in Sesotho), is an erect perennial herb that grows to around 150 – 300 mm in height, is commonly found in damp ground near streams or wetland areas at altitudes of up to 2900 m A.S.L., and is widespread throughout S.A. It should be noted that a dwarf variety (at just 70 mm) of these species can be found at the upper reach of its eco-band/altitude.
R. multifidus may or may not have hairy leaves. One could deduce that the hairy leaves function as to trap moisture thereby retarding desiccation. If so, it is more likely that one would observe the hairy variety at higher altitudes where moisture is harder to come by. The leaves are a bright green with 2 – 3 pairs of deeply divided leaflets with heavily toothed margins. The inflorescence is branched and stems are hollow. Solitary flowers may be observed on small plants. The flowers are 15 – 25 mm in diameter and the 5 petals are a glossy mustard/rich butter-yellow colour. Flowers October – early Feb.
The Latin word multifidus means “divided or segmented” and likely refers to the appearance of the petals. The rangers have observed this plant at only 1 locality in the C.N.R., which despite its common name makes it not so common in the area. It is possible that the low density of this plant may be correlated with disturbed veld as a result of overgrazing or possibly overharvesting by traditional healers. Whatever the case one must exercise care in determining the cause of decline of a species. The pictures above were taken on a section of the Leucosidea Trail in close proximity to the Ridge Estate. Uses:
The plant is simple yet attractive, and makes for an especially good garden plant in damp areas.
Used in traditional medicines to treat a variety of ailments including cures for headaches, urinary problems, ulcers, coughs, etc. The aqueous extract of R. multifidus shows high antimicrobial activity although the right concentration of the plant must be used in conjunction with several other medicinal plants or adverse effects may arise.
According to SANBI, R. multifidus is classified as of Least Concern.