This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest. This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.
Sagebrush Buttercup: Ranunculus glaberrimus
Secwepemc: smelts’éqyeʔ (R. glaberrimus)
Stl’atl’imx (Fraser River): (s-)k w əәxm-álus (first spring salmon)
Nlaka’pamux: nkw əәkw axm’-ús (eye of spring salmon)
English translation: ‘eye of spring salmon’, ‘little yellow flower, or little yellow ground-growth flower’
Typical Bloom (varies by elevation): February-April
Of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring, the sagebrush buttercup, this perennial herb is a ground cover that produces many stems 5 to 15 cm long, that either lie flat on the ground or reach upward. The flowers usually have five petals but may have as few as four and as many as ten that are each about 1 cm long. The shiny petals contrast sharply with the dark-green, fleshy smooth leaves. The sepals are yellow-purple, and they have many stamens and pistils.
The Sagebrush buttercup is found at low elevations in the Southern Interior of British Columbia in dry forests, on hillsides among sagebrush, in grasslands, moist woods, meadows, open fields, as well as wetlands and other riparian areas. Ranunculus species are found throughout the world!
Buttercups contain a toxin that is a potent skin irritant called protoanemonin. The toxin is an oil and causes dermatitis on contact causing redness and blistering of the skin and mucous membranes. If chewed or swallowed blisters may form on the lips and face, followed by severe gastrointestinal irritation, accompanied by dizziness, spasms, and paralysis. The toxic oil is also irritating to the eyes. Indigenous people of the Southern Interior of British Columbia often used it on their arrowheads as a poison and the whole plant was used to poison coyotes by tainting meat used as bait. However, the toxin in buttercups is unstable and is rendered harmless by drying or boiling the leaves, roots, and flowers.
Indigenous Cultural Notes: The Secwepemc and Nlaka’pamux used a poultice of mashed whole plant and water externally to alleviate sore joints, general aches and pains, as well as a treatment for warts. It should be cautioned that Sagebrush buttercup (nkw əәkw axm’-ús) was considered a very powerful medicine, which was said to help draw out poisons.
Interesting facts: Despite their toxicity, buttercups have a long history of medicinal uses. Civilizations in many parts of the world have used the leaves and roots of the plant to treat numerous ailments including rheumatism, arthritis, cuts, and bruises.
Medicinal plant information is for historical information only. Gold Country Communities Society is not encouraging harvesting of native plants for food and/or medicine
Researched and written by Lana Rae Brooks
Plants in the na’ʔk’ʷulamən garden Pg 20
Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge: Ethnobotany and Ecological Wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America by Nancy J. Turner 1980:119