Published 12:36 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2018
I cannot think of a flower that evokes more fond childhood memories of spring and summer than the buttercup (Ranunculus).
The buttercup is a member of the genus Ranunculaceae family and includes about 500 different plant species. Most are perennial bright yellow beacons with a rosette of leaves at the base of the stem. Their peak flowering time is spring but they can be found flowering throughout the summer, usually where they have taken advantage of optimal colonization sites, like in the garden where they are considered to be opportunistic weeds. They can be found readily in yards and open fields in the spring. There are even aquatic varieties that can be found along streams.
When examined up close the common buttercup’s bright yellow petals that form its corolla have a high glossy look to them, almost as if they were made of shiny plastic. There is a reason this little flower has a special color mechanism that creates this mirror-like reflection in the sunlight. The bright yellow flashes create visual beacons which attract pollinators and help regulate the flowers reproductive organs temperature. The buttercup’s flower head moves during the course of the day to track the sun’s solar light and captures its energy like a tiny yellow satellite. It is truly an amazing little flower.
As a child did you ever hold a buttercup up to a friend’s nose and ask “smell cheese” than hit them on the nose with the flower? Or test to see if you liked butter by holding the flower under the chin looking for a bright yellow reflection? Both are instances of buttercup folklore that many children grew up amusing themselves with.
All Ranunculus species including the buttercup are poisonous and should not be eaten. There have been cases where animals have been poisoned when buttercups have been overabundant in over grazed fields and the animals have eaten them out of desperation.
Despite its toxicity if eaten, the delicate little buttercup is a tiny yellow powerhouse of a plant. It is not willing to be overlooked in the meadow among a sea of wildflowers and will certainly catch your eye out in the yard against a backdrop of green.
Surely the buttercup will brighten your day with its flashy yellow self and put a smile on your face, while the tune of “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations plays in your mind.
Dawn Conrad is a columnist for The Kenbridge- Victoria Dispatch and can be reached at conrad.gardenmuse@ gmail.com or fb.me/conrad. gardenmuse.