Buttercups Ranunculus acris

Rough Draft 12/14/2020 


These yellow meadow flowers emerge in the springtime usually between April and May. There are about 250 species of these flowering plants from the Ranunculaceae family. These can grow a little wild in woods and fields in the north temperate zones quite easily, or be purposely planted with seeds. To identify the true buttercup is to notice they have 5 bright and shiny petals that are yellow and five green to yellow sepals which surround the many yellow stamens.

Do You Like Butter?

This child’s custom is still taught to this day by holding this flower under the chin of a friend or family member. If the yellow reflection from the shiny petals can be seen under the chin, that child is said to “like butter”. This is a little funny thing to do but it’s a great way to turn this fascinating custom played on kids can be turned into a lesson on reflection by how these flowering petals can reflect light.


The yellow flower is associated with humility, neatness and childishness. It’s also been said that the origin is a belief that the yellow buttercup gave butter it’s vibrant hue,  which is an old wives’ tale because buttercups are poisonous to cattle and are often left uneaten in fields where cattle graze.

Growing Buttercups

This small yet eye catching flower can be found in most open spaces from fields, lawns, gardens and to even along roadsides throughout North America. This flower can be characterized as a bit of a wildflower. Although interestingly enough buttercups are native to Europe who considers this plant a weed. There is no apparent obvious  disbursement of seeds from the flower. The seeds just fall around the parent or flowering plant. Birds tend to eat the seeds yet there seems to be many or enough seeds to sprout on their own. Buttercups are winter hardy and are perennials so they will return and bloom year after year.

The buttercup plant prefers full sun or light shade and grows best in moist, well-drained soil. The Mountain buttercup has single, yellow 1” wide flowers that bloom in late spring. The plant grows only 3-6” tall and even does nicely in well-drained soil within a sunny rock garden. 

If you have children or grandchildren this is a fun and easy plant to grow. The low flowering plant only reaches about 6” at the most and is at the right height for children to pick and place in a small vase or share with others.

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