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Buttercups are brilliant yellow members of the ranunculus family. Buttercups make up nearly one fifth of the species of this family. There are variations in the number of petals and where the flowers grow, but almost all varieties share the distinctive butter-yellow petals for which they are named.
Buttercups are well-known for their sunny color and have worked their way into popular society to reflect cheer and affection. From the 1968 song “Build Me Up Buttercup” to Princess Buttercup in the beloved 1987 movie “The Princess Bride”, this flower has been used as a term of endearment for decades.
Buttercups are also popular with children. Many of us learned to hold the flower under a friend’s chin. If there was a yellow glow on their skin, the friend was said to like butter.
Buttercups are unique in the way their petals are highly glossy, to the point of being reflective. The smooth surface along with the underlying anatomy of the petals allows the buttercup to radiate a soft yellow glow that is unlike any other flower.
Long ago, buttercups were thought to give butter its yellow color. They are, in fact, toxic to cows and other livestock. However, the flowers lose their toxicity once dried. They have been used to create a topical salve for achy muscles and joints for hundreds of years.
Buttercups are most often found growing in cooler temperate regions. Many varieties thrive in either damp soil or in water. They are also sometimes found in wooded areas with dappled sunlight.
Buttercups are slightly heliotropic, turning somewhat to face the sun throughout the day. This fact, coupled with their brilliant surface, allows the flower to collect extra warmth from the sun. They can be as much as three degrees warmer than surrounding plants. This is advantageous in attracting pollinating insects.
While they are mostly perennial plants, buttercups can be difficult to transplant once they are established. If you would like to give buttercups as a gift, seek out sturdy plants at a local nursery to ensure growing success.
Once they are happily growing in the garden, it is said that buttercup plants can live in excess of one thousand years. This longevity makes them a thoughtful gift that will be remembered for years to come.
From childrens’ games to pop culture references, buttercups are beloved throughout our society. A gift of this bright yellow flower will send a cheery message to a loved one or friend.