Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wildflower Wednesday: Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris)

And O the buttercups! that field
O' the cloth of gold, where pennons swam,
Where France set up his lilied shield,
His oriflamb,
And Henry's lion-standard rolled:
What was it to their matchless sheen,
Their million drops of gold
Among the green! 
                                         ~ Jean Ingelow

   June is such a lovely month here in Maine. Just now the Buttercups are adorning our fields and roadsides. This beautiful wildflower is so abundant, I tend to take its loveliness for granted. But this spring I found myself looking forward to their blooming eagerly. And now they do indeed seem to me to be "drops of gold among the green", cheering my heart every time I look at them!

"The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice..."
   Our common Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) is one of about 500 species in the genus, belonging to the family Ranunculaceae. It is an introduced species throughout much of the world. In North America, it is native only to Greenland and possibly Alaska. As the specific name suggests, the plant contains an acrid juice that can even cause blisters. I have never had a problem after handling them, but Anne Pratt, in her book Flowers and Their Associations (1840) tells us that "Instances are common in which the wanderer in the meadow has lain down to sleep with a handful of these flowers
beside him, and has awakened to find the skin of his cheek pained and irritated to a high degree, by the acrid blossoms having lain near it". It is considered a weed by many. Cattle avoid it, making a pest to farmers...
Buttercups and daisies growing everywhere,
    In the field of clover, on the hillside fair,
    And in lovely valley, tilled with greatest care.

    Naught but weeds and rubbish, in the farmer's eyes,
    Drawing off the nurture from the grain they prize,
    And their great luxuriance sore their patience tries.

    But the dews of heaven give them richest bloom,
    And their smiling beauty drives away our gloom;
    For such little beauties surely there is room.

    In this world of sorrow flowers ne'er bloom in vain,
    Though they in their blooming sap the golden grain,
    And drink in the moisture of the latter rain;

    For our Heavenly Father deemed it wise and good
    To diffuse this beauty with the grain for food.
    And this wise arrangement He has never rued.
                                                                        ~Joseph Horatio Chant 

   But the sunny, cheerful Buttercup has always had plenty of admirers, and improved cultivars have even been welcomed into our gardens. William Curtis mentions double-flowered varieties as early as 1793. It is one of those plants which we fancy seem to prefer human company. Hugh MacMillan in his Poetry of Plants (1903) writes "The glaze of the Buttercup is of kindred character with the song of the lark that rises from the dewy field beside it in the blue air....They are both the outcome of the spirit of love that pervades all Nature. They both appeared at first to give Adam and Eve a bridal welcome. They are both the sign of the great marriage festivities of Nature...
   As the Buttercups came to welcome Adam and Eve in Paradise, so they have continued ever since the friends and companions of man. They are never found far from his home. They dwell in the meadows in which he feeds his cattle and the fields from which he reaps his bread. They never wander into the wilds of Nature....You never find Buttercups in the woods or on hills far from the haunts of man. You see them pausing on the very edge of a wood, and peeping into its shadowy recesses, refusing to enter, having those strange, mysterious wood-fears which prevent the sparrow and the swallow and the robin red-breast, and most of our familiar songbirds that take up their abode with man, from seeking its silence and lonesomeness. Everywhere the Buttercup belongs to the human world alone."
   What about you? Do you love the Buttercup? 😊  I'm joining Clay and Limestone today for Wildflower Wednesday. 


  1. Buttercups were among the first bouquets I collected as a child. My mother didn't grow cut flowers, so wildflowers were mine for the taking, helping myself to her small vase collection, I'd pridefully place my gatherings in the center of the dining table. (See, it's been a lifelong obsession!)
    And don't forget the child-game of "Do you like butter?" with a bloom under the chin. ;)

    1. I picked them as a little girl too although I never knew the "Do you like butter?" game. Isn't it amazing how we grow up loving flowers even before we can fully appreciate them? :)

  2. Love that bright yellow...and the poems are lovely. gail

    1. Thank you Gail, and thanks for hosting WW! :)

  3. They are beautiful, but their reputation for aggressiveness makes it harder to enjoy them.

    1. I have never really thought them a problem but maybe I would if I had livestock. I wonder if the cultivated varieties have the same aggressive traits?