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Key to Ranunculaceae

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1 Shrub or vine; leaves compound (or sometimes some to most of them simple in Clematis).
..2 Leaves opposite, distributed along the stem; sepals 4, white to blue or purplish, 10-50 mm long; wood not yellow; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Anemoneae]
..2 Leaves alternate, clustered together at the top of the usually unbranched, erect stem; sepals 5, maroon, 2-5 mm long; wood yellow; [subfamily Coptidoideae]
1 Herb; leaves compound or simple.
....3 Leaves simple, sometimes deeply cleft or lobed into rounded or elongate segments; [subfamily Ranunculoideae].
....3 Leaves compound, the leaflets either linear or more-or-less petiolulate.

Key A: Subkey in Ranunculaceae

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1 Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, the upper sepal hooded or spurred; [tribe Delphinieae].
..2 Upper sepal hooded or helmet-shaped; petals hidden by the sepals; perianth blue or creamy white; stems weak, clambering, reclining, vining, or ascending in a curve
..2 Upper sepal spurred; petals at least partly exserted from the sepals; perianth blue, pink, white, or greenish; stems strong, erect, normally straight
1 Flowers radially symmetrical, no perianth parts spurred or hooded (except the 5 sepals spurred in Myosurus).
....3 Petals present, white or yellow, larger and more conspicuous than the sepals; sepals present, green; [in other words, with a second, green, less conspicuous perianth whorl below the largest and colored perianth whorl; note that some Anemone have a calyx-like involucre of 3 bracts subtending each flower]; [tribe Ranunculeae].
......4 Basal leaves linear to linear-spatulate, mostly 4-8 cm long, 1-3 mm wide; receptacle elongate, 1-6 cm long (superficially resembling a Plantago inflorescence)
......4 Basal leaves various, but not as above; receptacle globose to sub-cylindric, mostly < 1 cm long
........5 Sepals 3 (-4); petals 7-12; achenes pubescent, beakless; leaves simple, cordate, unlobed; [introduced garden plants]
........5 Sepals (3-) 5 (-6); petals typically 5-9 (10 in some "doubled" forms); achenes smooth or variously ornamented with spines, papillae, or tubercles, sometimes also pubescent; leaves various, usually not at once simple, cordate, and unlobed (except in Halerpestes); [native or introduced].
..........6 Cauline leaves absent; basal leaves cordate, unlobed
..........6 Cauline leaves present, well-developed; basal leaves not simultaneously cordate and unlobed
....3 Petals absent (or modified into relatively inconspicuous nectaries or staminodia); sepals present and petaloid (white, yellow, yellow-green, cream, or blue).
............ 7 Petaloid sepals 3-5 mm long, caducous; stamens white and showy; [tribe Ranunculeae]
............ 7 Petaloid sepals 6-40 mm long, not caducous; stamens not notably white and showy.
............ ..8 Leaves opposite, distributed along the stem; style plumose; [tribe Anemoneae]
............ ..8 Leaves all basal, or with a few alternate or whorled involucrate leaves on the stem; style not plumose.
............ ....9 Petaloid sepals white, bluish, or blue; basal leaves 3-5 (-7)-lobed; [tribe Anemoneae]
............ ......10 Leaves lobed, and also toothed and variously cleft; leaves not variegated
............ ......10 Leaves lobed, the margins of the lobes entire; leaves often prominently variegated
............ ....9 Petaloid sepals yellow, green, or whitish (sometimes marked with purple); basal leaves unlobed, or palmately cleft into 5-11 (-many) segments.
............ ........11 Leaves cordate-reniform, unlobed; sepals bright yellow; petals absent; [native, of bogs and marshes]; [tribe Caltheae]
............ ........11 Leaves palmately or pedately lobed or divided; sepals green, greenish, dull yellow, or whitish; petals modified into tubular nectaries; [introduced, rarely persistent or escaped from cultivation].
............ ..........12 Sepals 5, green or maroon, persistent in fruit; cauline leaves present; leaf margins sharply and finely serrate; [tribe Helleboreae]
............ ..........12 Sepals 5-8, yellow; cauline leaves either present, alternate, or absent, except for the involucre of 3 bracts which immediately subtends the flower.
............ ............ 13 Cauline leaves absent, except the 3 involucral bracts immediately subtending the flower; [tribe Cimicifugeae]
............ ............ 13 Cauline leaves present, alternate, the uppermost > 1 cm below the flower; [tribe Helleboreae]

Key B: Subkey in Ranunculaceae

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1 Fruit a follicle, each carpel with 2 or more ovules.
..2 Leaves cordate-reniform, toothed, not lobed or divided; [tribe Caltheae]
..2 Leaves variously palmately or pedately lobed or divided.
....3 Carpels 1-3; plants 3-30 dm tall; [native, except Consolida]; [tribe Delphinieae].
......4 Stems weak, clambering, reclining, or vining
......4 Stems strong, erect
....3 Carpels 3-6; plants 1-5 dm tall; [introduced, rarely persistent or escaping].
........5 Cauline leaves absent, except for the involucre which immediately subtends the fruit; [tribe Cimicifugeae]
........5 Cauline leaves present; [tribe Helleboreae].
1 Fruit an achene (or dehiscent utricle in Trautvetteria), each carpel with 1 ovule.
..........6 Leaves opposite, distributed along the stem; style plumose; [tribe Anemoneae]
..........6 Leaves all basal, or with a few alternate or whorled involucrate leaves on the stem; style not plumose.
............ 7 Basal leaves linear to linear-spatulate, mostly 4-8 cm long, 1-3 mm wide; receptacle elongate, 1-6 cm long (superficially resembling a Plantago inflorescence); [tribe Ranunculeae]
............ 7 Basal leaves various, but not as above, generally long-petiolate, with an expanded, crenate-toothed, 3-lobed, or palmately-lobed blade; receptacle globose to sub-cylindric, mostly < 1 cm long.
............ ..8 Fruit a dehiscent utricle; cauline leaves alternate; [tribe Ranunculeae]
............ ..8 Fruit an achene; cauline leaves opposite or whorled (or alternate in Ranunculus, or reduced to alternate scale-like bracts in Halerpestes).
............ ....9 Cauline leaves opposite or whorled, or reduced to 3 sepal-like involucral bracts immediately subtending the flower; sepals absent (but in Hepatica” mimicked by the bracts); [tribe Anemoneae]
............ ......10 Leaves lobed, and also toothed and variously cleft; leaves not variegated
............ ......10 Leaves lobed, the margins of the lobes entire; leaves often prominently variegated
............ ....9 Cauline leaves alternate; sepals present; [tribe Ranunculeae]
............ ........11 Achenes smooth or variously ornamented with spines, papillae, or tubercles, sometimes also pubescent, usually noticeably beaked, the beak > 0.3 mm long; leaves various, usually not at once simple, cordate, and unlobed ; [native or introduced]
............ ........11 Achenes not ornamented with spines, papillae, or tubercles, pubescent or glabrous, beakless; leaves simple, unlobed.
............ ..........12 Sepals 3; [introduced garden plants]
............ ..........12 Sepals 5; [native, of s. NJ northwards]

Key C: Subkey in Ranunculaceae

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1 Leaflets linear, < 1.5 mm wide.
..2 Flowers bilaterally symmetrical; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Delphineae]
..2 Flowers radially symmetrical.
....3 Aquatic; [native]; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Ranunculeae]
....3 Terrestrial; [alien].
......4 Flower closely subtended by a finely dissected involucre; pistils compound; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Nigelleae]
......4 Flower lacking involucre; pistils simple.
........5 Petals 8-15 mm long, red, purple, or orange; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Adonideae]
........5 Petals 3-5 mm long, yellow; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Ranunculeae]
1 Leaflets broader, rounded, lobed, or toothed.
..........6 Leaves all cauline, opposite; stems somewhat woody at base; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Anemoneae]
..........6 Leaves basal and cauline, the cauline alternate (or with opposite or whorled involucral bracts).
............ 7 Petals present, conspicuous
............ ..8 Flowers dangling; petals red, orange with yellow, or blue, spurred; [subfamily Thalictroideae]
............ ..8 Flowers not dangling; petals yellow, not spurred; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Ranunculeae]
............ 7 Petals absent or inconspicuous (soon deciduous or altered into a nectary-bearing clavate structure); sepals sometimes petaloid and conspicuous.
............ ....9 Sepals petaloid, conspicuous, white (or cream, rose, pink, or tinged with green).
............ ......10 Involucre absent, all leaves on the stem alternate; petaloid sepals 5, white; [subfamily Thalictroideae]
............ ......10 Involucre of opposite or whorled, leaflike bracts present; petaloid sepals (4-) 5-20 (-30), white, cream, rose, or green.
............ ........11 Basal leaves with 3-5 leaflets, these toothed or incised; petaloid sepals white, cream, rose, or green; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Anemoneae]
............ ........11 Basal leaves with > 5 leaflets; these with 0-3 rounded lobes at the tip; petaloid sepals white to pale pink; [subfamily Thalictroideae]
............ ....9 Sepals absent, or inconspicuous in comparison to the stamens or pistils.
............ ..........12 Leaflets 3; flower solitary; [subfamily Coptidoideae]
............ ..........12 Leaflets many; flowers many, in a panicle or raceme.
............ ............ 13 Inflorescence a raceme; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Cimicifugeae]
............ ............ 13 Inflorescence a panicle; [subfamily Thalictroideae]

Key D: Subkey in Ranunculaceae

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1 Fruit a follicle or capsular (or fleshy and berrylike in some Actaea).
..2 Mature leaves > 4 dm wide; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Cimicifugeae]
..2 Mature leaves < 3 dm wide.
....3 Leaflets linear; [aliens].
......4 Flowers in a raceme, not subtended by an involucre; fruit follicular, each with a 1-2 mm long beak; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Delphineae]
......4 Flower solitary, subtended by a finely divided involucre; fruit a spherical capsule-like structure composed of 5 or 10 partially connate follicles, each follicle terminated by a linear beak 13-20 mm long; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Nigelleae]
....3 Leaflets broad, rounded; [mostly natives].
........5 Follicles borne on stipes, forming an umbel-like cluster; rhizomes yellow or orange; [subfamily Coptidoideae]
........5 Follicles sessile; rhizomes brown or tan; [subfamily Thalictroideae].
..........6 Follicles 15-31 mm long, with beaks 7-18 mm long
..........6 Follicles 3.5-6.5 mm long, with beaks 1.5-3 mm long
1 Fruit an achene.
............ 7 Leaves divided into numerous linear segments, all of which are < 1 mm wide.
............ ..8 Plant aquatic (if leaves divided into numerous linear segments); [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Ranunculeae]
............ ..8 Plant terrestrial.
............ ....9 Achenes 3-5 mm long, glabrous, with a persistent beak 0.5-1 mm long; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Adonideae]
............ ....9 Achenes 1.6-2 mm long, tometose, with a persistent beak 3.5-4.5 mm long; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Ranunculeae]
............ 7 Leaf segments rounded or cleft, > 1 mm wide.
............ ......10 Leaves cauline, opposite; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Anemoneae]
............ ......10 Leaves basal and/or cauline, cauline leaves (if present) alternate (leaflike involucral bracts sometimes present and opposite or whorled).
............ ........11 Leaflike involucral bracts present, opposite or whorled.
............ ..........12 Achenes not ribbed or veined on lateral surfaces; leaf texture moderate to distinctly thick and leathery; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Anemoneae]
............ ..........12 Achenes conspicuously ribbed or veined on lateral surfaces; leaf texture thin, delicate; [subfamily Thalictroideae]
............ ........11 Leaflike involucral bracts not present.
............ ............ 13 Leaflets 3-many, if many the leaflets typically with teeth, or sharp lobes; [subfamily Ranunculoideae, tribe Ranunculeae]
............ ............ 13 Leaflets many, unlobed or typically with 3-9 rounded lobes; [subfamily Thalictroideae]
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