Petite cream-colored flowers peek above the still surface of a pond. Small white petals are banded with yellow at the center, surrounding a buttery cluster of yellow stamens. The flower has a glossy shine, akin to that of its land-locked buttercup cousins. Look close and you’ll see the flowers are rising from a mat of yellowish-green leaves just below the surface. Water buttercup (Ranunculus aquatilis) is also called whitewater crowfoot, likely because the narrow twiggy leaves look like the bony feet of a bird.
You can see this plant all over California and throughout much of the west. The photos shown here were taken in the high Sierra, where a spring had made a small pond in an otherwise very dry landscape of sagebrush and juniper; the seeds must have been deposited by a bird that stopped there for water.