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In May, an article was dedicated to the undergrowth lesser celandine, known falsely as “buttercup”. This article is about its yellow fraternal twin, the “real” buttercup, a perennial plant quite similar to the lesser celandine, which can be a source of mistake.

The buttercup was discovered in the Holy Land in the 13th century by the Crusaders of Louis IX, the future St Louis, known as the Prudhomme. Its Latin flora patronymic, “Ranunculus acris”, means « to live near frogs », and, in a more popular language “golden basin, cock’s foot”. 

Yellow is one of the first colours appearing in spring, in different wildflowers of the region: dandelion, coltsfoot, daffodil, chelidonia, cuckoo. This bright colour is important for forgotten floral lives stubbornly striving to stand out. 

Yellow is everywhere, on the right picture a foot in dandelion

It is an important light hue for forgotten floral lives stubbornly striving to stand out.

When the yellow colour of the buttercup can be seen and the songs of the bird called cuckoo can be heard, spring has started” said the Champagne farmers in the past, while placing a flower in a pot of milk, with the hope of obtaining good creamy butter all year round.

The yellow sheen of the flower evokes the presence of fat, hence the name of “butterblume” (German for butter flower) or buttercup in English.

The swallows return at the same time as the buttercup, this perennial plant with golden little heads flourishing in shady and cool places, indicating a lack of lime (calcium oxide) in the soil. Therefore, the buttercup is able to give information on the soil composition and nature.

Swallow © With permission of the newspaper « la hulotte »

The buttercup is 60 cm high and has a hollow stem with glued hairs. Like the strawberry plant, it depends on a network of underground roots.

It has narrow, deeply cut, hairy leaves with 3 lobes at the top. Amazingly, those underneath are in 5 larger parts.    

In order to grow and develop well, the buttercup takes over the neighbour plants, some of which stop to grow. The flower of the buttercup has a central pistil and carpels for the ovary, numerous stamens, five petals and five sepals forming an amber-coloured unit 2.5 cm in diameter, which blooms for about a week, as a small golden bubble on a solid stem.

Its buds are charming and attractive among flowers of a country bouquet.

The buttercup is a hermaphrodite plant, i.e. male and female, melliferous, spreading widely, with a nectar gland at the base of its petals.

The fruits, called achenes, leave independent seeds that will reseed themselves alone, without the need of water, wind, or hairs.

The yellow colour looks like the drops of the precious nectar that gives it colour to the honey. This contributes to make the buttercup attractive to insects.

It has a layer of fat, made up of lipids, which make it look shiny as well as waterproof.

Cattle trying to eat fresh buttercups in the fields often suffer from sever diarrhoea, before understanding through the experience and finally letting it untouched.

But, when it is dried in hay, the buttercup loses its original toxicity, a chemical strategy to protect itself from predators.

However, in prehistoric times, the mammoth used to graze on fresh buttercups.

In homeopathic medicine, the buttercup is known to have interesting properties, relieving neuralgia and allergic rhinitis.  

The buttercup is also used in a family game that people still like to play during days in the outdoors. The game is to reveal how much someone like butter by judging if there is a reflection of the buttercup when placing it under the neck. If there is a reflection, the game player is allowed to eat delicious buttered bread straight away. 

Nature is always full of surprises, rich in diversity and infinite lessons.

With the authorization of l’Est Eclair / Libération Champagne