Anemone americana, the Round-lobed Hepatica, is one of the best known and most popular early wildflowers in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina. While appreciated for its blue flowers, it is also known for its colorful evergreen foliage. The wide leaves have three rounded lobes with smooth margins. Old leaves wither and die in the early spring, generally after the bloom, as new leaves appear. The shape never changes throughout the year, and no new leaves are added after the early spring. Leaf colors do change, as will be illustrated in the following pictures.
Below is a typical Round-lobed Hepatica in bloom. The leaves are a deep green with many showing various degrees of purple coloration, characteristic of older leaves.
The photo below illustrates the reaction of a Round-lobed Hepatica to a late winter prescribed burn, which destroyed the older leaves and burned most of the litter around the plant. In this case, flowers and leaves are unfurling simultaneously. Note the dense hairs on the flower and leaf stems, and on the flower bracts. The prescribed burn took place two weeks before this photo was taken.
New leaves are a bright, vivid green, matching the color of many of the surrounding herbaceous plants.
Below, in a late winter photo, leaves have darkened and purple colors can be seen starting on one leaf.
Some leaves turn almost completely purple in late winter.
Adjacent to the plant in the preceding photo, were several unusual Round-lobed Hepaticas that were purple with only very faint variegation.
Another common name for Anemone americana is Liverleaf. The leaf below illustrates the color, variegation patterns, and shape that reminded the early naturalists of liver, which also has three lobes.
Ranunculus recurvatus, the Hooked Buttercup, is a relative of the Hepaticas in the Buttercup family, the Ranunculaceae. Contrary to the Round-lobed Hepatica, the Hooked Buttercup changes leaf shape throughout its development, but does not change color. The two generally bear no resemblance to each other, but they do cross paths when the Hooked Buttercup goes through the three-lobed leaf stage during its development.
Recently, an unusual population of R. recurvatus was found along a stream bank. These plants had a darker green color than normal, and heavy variegation. At a distance, these plants could have been mistaken for Hepaticas, but a closer look revealed that they were R. recurvatus. See below.
The Hooked Buttercup begins its development as a small, nondescript leaf or group of leaves, that resemble many seedling plants.
The next group of leaves to develop have the typical color and show a three-lobed division, with the cleft between the lobes becoming deeper as leaves continue to be added.
Small, yellow flowers appear on the mature plants. As leaves continue to be added, the lobes become longer and thinner. A number of small, developing plants can be seen at the bottom of the photo below.
The Hooked Buttercup gets its name from the tiny hooks that appear on the fruits as they are formed.
Both Anemone americana and Ranunculus recurvatus are native plants, and both prefer moist hardwood forests. R. recurvatus especially likes streamsides and riversides, while A. americana prefers a more upland location. Although its flowers are individually very small, when large populations of R. recurvatus occur along streams, the collective yellow flowers are easily visible.