Buttercup Flower: Meaning, Symbolism, Colors & Care

Buttercup flowers, commonly known as buttercups, water crowfoots, and spearwort are a monumental genus of flowering plants counting more than 1700 species, or even more than 1800.

The genus is botanically known as Ranunculus and belongs to the family of Ranuunculaceae.

The Ranunculus genus is present all around Europe and in both Americas.

The so-called creeping buttercup grows in gardens all around the northern parts of the European continent. It was introduced to other parts of the world, as well.

This species, Ranunculus repens, is a hardy and tough plant.

The other two most widespread buttercup types are the bulbous buttercup, Ranunculus bulbosus, and Ranunculus acris, the meadow buttercup.

However, these species do not have ornamental value in gardening. People typically consider them weeds.

Specimens of the highest value in horticulture are many selected cultivars. One of the most admired is the Persian buttercup and its double-flowered hybrids.

The Persian buttercup, Ranunculus asiaticus, is a buttercup species distributed in Mediterranean European regions, the southwest parts of Asia, and North Africa.

Water crowfoots belong to a subgenus Batrachium, sometimes taken as a separate genus. 

The name derives from the Greek word for ‘frog’. These plants live and grow in water, still or running.

Interestingly, the name Ranunculus also comes from the word ‘frog’. In Latin, ranunculus means a ‘little frog’.

The name comes from the growing habit of many species. They commonly grow near water, just like little frogs.

What follows is an overview of the buttercup flower’s significance and usage, followed by tips for growing and caring about the cultivated specimens of Persian buttercup, as it is highly regarded in floristry.

Buttercup Flower Name

The names of water crowfoots and Ranunculus are clear. What about the common name for this vast genus, the buttercup flower?

What is its origin? The name buttercup comes from a common folk belief.

According to belief, buttercup flowers are responsible for the yellowish color of butter!

However, it is false info, and the plant is not beneficial to cows. It is poisonous to these animals and livestock in general. The yellow shade of cow milk butter has nothing to do with buttercups.

There is another interesting belief. There is a children’s game involving buttercup flowers.

Holding a buttercup flower near the chin could tell if someone loves butter! If there is a yellow reflection – coming from the yellow color of common buttercups, it means one is fond of butter.

There are other names and beliefs associated with this flower, though.

In North America, in the Sahaptian language of Native American peoples, they call the plant ‘coyote’s eyes’.

According to the legend, the Coyote used the buttercup flowers to replace his eyes, which the eagle snatched from him.

This belief likely has to do with the yellow color of buttercup flowers that could be associated with coyote eyes.

Buttercup Flower Uses and Toxicity

Ranunculus species have medicinal value. The most common use of buttercup flowers is to treat pain and fever.

The plant is used as an anti-rheumatic, antipyretic, and for improving blood flow, as a rubefacient.

Some Ranunculus species contain anemonin and protoanemonin.

The presence of these substances explains their use in traditional Asian medicine. All the species, however, could be poisonous.

Thanks to their bitter, keen taste and the troublesome effect it has on the lips and mouth if one tries to eat them raw, buttercups usually stay out of bellies.

However, livestock sometimes eats it if there are not enough plants the animals feed on regularly.

The animals do not eat them because they like them but because there is nothing else to eat. Buttercups could harm them, though.

The poisoning from buttercup flowers leads to bloody diarrhea in livestock, colic, salivation, and blisters.

Blistering occurs in the mouth, the gastrointestinal system, and mucous membranes.

However, dried plants are not toxic. If there were dried buttercup flowers in the hay, they are not dangerous.

Touching buttercups with bare hands could lead to contact dermatitis.

Therefore, if you have to deal with buttercups around your place, take caution. Protect your hands to avoid irritation.

Buttercup Flowers Color Symbolism 

Although there are hundreds of species, the first thing that comes to mind upon mentioning buttercup flowers is the bright yellow color.

You know, the one kids would use to paint the sun. The color yellow is a color of joy, playfulness, and happiness.

Color yellow substitutes gold in artworks and heraldry.

Therefore, the yellow color of buttercups is associated with gold. Gold is a precious metal, luxurious and expensive.

It is associated with might, power, wealth, prosperity, fortune, and royalty.

Golden buttercups are also associated with butter, as their name says.

Remember the kids’ game we mentioned before? Buttercups indicate a fondness for butter. Butter is a milk product people use to make various edibles.

Butter is a dairy product containing almost eighty percent fat. People use it as a spread, for baking, frying, cooking, and more.

It has much value in culinary. The lovely yellow buttercups are named after this widely used milk product.

With all this in mind, we can say buttercup flowers represent youthfulness, joy, abundance, happiness, well-being, and excellent health.

Buttercups are usually yellow, but Persian buttercups come in many shades. Persian buttercups could be pink, orange, red, purple, purple, or green.

Pink Persian buttercups represent romance, youthful love, happiness, tender love, and soul connection.

Red buttercups represent passion, deep devotion, fiery love, dedication, fortune, and wealth.

Orange buttercups stand for optimism, joy, energy and enthusiasm, friendly relations, connection, feeling good, and empowerment.

Green buttercups stand for good health, vitality, freshness, new beginning, and growing.

Purple Persian buttercups stand for royalty, power, wealth, and dignity.

Persian buttercups are lavish in appearance. Unlike many species of buttercups, you will hardly see them in meadows.

Buttercup Flower Symbolic Meaning

Besides the children’s game about discovering whether one likes butter or not, there are other beliefs and meanings attached to buttercups.

The game of butter and buttercups was popular in Victorian England.

Amongst various peculiar concepts and beliefs Victorians held, the language of flowers was a truly lovely one.

Floriography, that is, ‘writing by flowers’ was a practice of sending someone a particular flower, to pass them a message.

Many love letters were flower letters back then. In Victorian flower language, buttercups meant youthfulness, and childish spirit, thanks to the butter-buttercup game. It could be a positive connotation, though.

If you send someone a bouquet featuring buttercups, you admire and appreciate their youthfulness and youthful spirit.

However, if you send someone only a buttercup, it could be an insult.

Creeping buttercup – Ranunculus repens

The name of this type of buttercup is a literal translation from Latin, for the term repens means ‘creeping’.

As mentioned, ranunculus means ‘little frog’ and is the same for all the plants in the genus.

The creeping buttercup is one of the most widespread species of the buttercup genus.

It is native to the European continent, northwestern regions of Africa, and Asia. People also call it creeping crowfoot and sitfast.

Ranunculus repens is a herbaceous perennial plant. It has prostrate stems and its nodes produce new buttercup plants. The foliage is green. The leaves consist of three leaflets.

These are lobed and stalked. The flowers are bright yellow, which is typical for most buttercups.

Their petals are shiny, and there are usually five of them. You can find this species growing in pastures. It enjoys moisture and wet soil.

Creeping buttercups grow in gardens, and people regard them as weeds.

They are common, spreading quickly. Flooded areas, damp soil, and wet areas, in general, are their preferred habitat.

Although the creeping buttercup flower was considered an ornamental plant before, most take it as an invasive alien plant.

It can overpopulate the space and harm other plants’ environment.

Meadow buttercup – Ranunculus acris

This species is one of the most common types of buttercup flowers growing across the European continent and temperate zones of Asia.

It is native to regions of Eurasia, but it was introduced to other parts of the globe.

People call it by many names. Some of them are the tall buttercup, the giant buttercup, and the common buttercup. Most people call it the meadow buttercup.

This species is another herbaceous perennial from the genus Ranunculus. It has lovely shiny flowers of striking yellow color.

The flowers of the meadow buttercup have five petals. The petals grow from five sepals that are green but turn yellow as the buttercup plant develops.

The leaves are green, consisting of three lobed leaflets.

Ranunculus acris enjoys pastures and mowed grasslands. It loves a bit of moisture but does not enjoy wet soils like Ranunculus repens.

It does not grow well in areas with drier soils, favored by another relative, Ranunculus bulbosus.

The abundant presence of meadow buttercup can reveal the age of the grassland community it grows. When it comes to horticulture, meadow buttercups are typically regarded as an invasive, troublesome species.

On the other side, it is admired as a wildflower. One cultivar of Ranunculus acris, the double-flowered ‘Flore Peno’ got the Royal Horticultural Society’s award.

Native American tribes value meadow buttercups for their medicinal properties.

Many of them use flowers and leaves of Ranunculus acris to treat headaches. Abenaki, Micmac, and Montagnis all use the buttercup plant for this purpose.

Some prepare a poultice from the meadow buttercup to treat inflammatory processes and candidiasis, and as a sedative.

Cherokee Indians use it for this purpose. They also eat the cooked leaves of the plant.

The Iroquois use a poultice of meadow buttercups to treat colds and chest pain. They also use it to stop diarrhea.

They also use a mixture of the meadow buttercup and other plants to make an ointment that clears the excess water in the blood.

Meadow buttercups are toxic. The poisoning can cause intestinal problems and pain in the stomach.

Poisoned animals can suffer from blisters in the mouth, diarrhea, and even blindness.

Bulbous buttercup – Ranunculus bulbosus

Ranunculus bulbosus, or the bulbous buttercup, is another member of the buttercup family.

People also call it Saint Anthony’s turnip. Its epithet comes from the appearance of the perennanting organ of the plant.

The perennanting organs develop in some plants as a survival mechanism.

They store enough nutrients for the plant to survive unfavorable conditions between germinating seasons. So, the bulbous buttercup got its name after it.

The bulbous organ is called the corm. It helps the plant to survive the winter after it dies out during the hot summer. It distinguishes this buttercup from some other species.

The flowers of the bulbous buttercup are yellow, with five to seven petals.

The plant has leaves borne on the stems. Just like other members of the genus, bulbous buttercups are toxic.

The raw plant is poisonous to livestock. However, when the plant dries, it loses the toxic matter, the glycoside ranunculin.

Therefore, hay containing bulbous buttercups is safe for animals.

Persian buttercup – Ranunculus asiaticus

Ranunculus asiaticus, or the Persian buttercup, is a species native to the eastern parts of the Mediterranean and southwest Asia.

It grows in the northeast parts of Africa and on the island of Karpathos, Rhodes, and Crete.

This member of the buttercup family could come in different colors, unlike the most common yellow buttercups.

It is a perennial with flowers, one or several, carried on each of the stems. Leaves are green and three-lobed.

Hybrids of the Persian buttercup are highly esteemed in horticulture and gardening. This stands for double-flowered forms.

Gardeners praise Persian buttercups, which is not the case with invasive buttercup family members.

The double-flowered hybrid forms have a prominent place as ornamental plants. If you want to learn how to grow and care for Persian buttercups, stay tuned.

Persian Buttercup Care and Growth 

Persian buttercups are a splendid representative of the vast buttercup family.

Brilliant colors and the peony-rose look with flurry petals make them astonishing. These flowers have a long vase life, so people love to see them in floral arrangements and bouquets.

This plant has a fast growth rate but requires certain conditions to grow properly.

Persian buttercups love warmer climates. If you live in warmer areas, you can plant Persian buttercups outside, in the fall season.

If you live in colder climates, where temperatures fall below zero and stay there for a longer period, plant the bulbs – corms once there is no threat of freezing.

Early spring is the time to do it if there is no risk of frost occurrence anymore.

You can grow Persian buttercups as perennials and leave the plant to die out in the summer.

The corms remain dormant. Drier and cooler conditions will do them well. Too much moisture can cause corm rot.

If you live in too cold areas, the corms could be stored in cool conditions indoors, to overwinter.

This practice is not that successful, so many people simply plant Persian buttercups as annual plants.

Light and soil

Persian buttercups are sunlovers. To provide them with the best conditions for blooming, place them in full sun.

They will require at least six hours of direct sun daily. When it comes to soil, this plant loves drier ones.

Sandy soil could be a good option, as well as a loamy one. Proper drainage is a must-have.

Before you plant the corms, use some compost or fertilizer for bulbs. Persian buttercups in containers will be happy with a water-soluble fertilizer once in two weeks.

Temperature, humidity and water

These plants benefit from cool springs and turn dormant once the summer heat hits.

It is good to keep the corms cool. Add a layer of mulch to keep the soil cool. Persian buttercups do not have special requirements in terms of humidity.

However, make sure the roots do not sit in a too humid environment.

It can cause rotting. When it comes to watering, bulbs do not need soaking before planting, but it is an option. If you dip them in water, do not let them sit in it for too long.

The bulbs require abundant watering after you plant them.

Established plants need moisture, but not too much. Water them when you notice the soil is dry.

Propagation and repotting

The most common way to propagate Persian buttercups is division.

If you decide to do it, dig up the bulbs in the fall. Use the knife to divide the corms and plant them in separate locations. Newly planted corms require proper watering.

Select containers with proper drainage holes for repotting your container-grown buttercups.

Use a universal potting mixture. Water the plants and place them in full sun.

Common pests and diseases

Persian buttercups can suffer the common plant pests, including aphids, leaf miners, and spider mites. Yellowish, withered leaves indicate pests attacked the plant. To get rid of them, use organic pesticides.

Prevent the plant from common Persian buttercup diseases such as rust, necrotic spot, powdery mildew, and tomato spotted wilt virus. When sick, the leaves turn yellow and curl. The plant can die if left untreated.

Proper air circulation, well-watered soil (without watering the plant itself), and annual rotation of plants will do the work.

Persian buttercup colors and varieties

These lovely, brilliant-colored peony-rose-like flowers come in many issues. It is hard to tell which one is prettier than the other. Here are some of the most popular cultivars.

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Bloomingdale’ – This is a lovely variety with large flowers. This flower can appear in various colors.

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Café’ – The name of this variety comes from the bronze color of its flowers. Striking and elegant exemplar.

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Cloni Pon-Pon Hermione’ – The petals of this lovely variety are pinkish and white, while the center is of light green color.

The flowers have a long life and appear great both in arrangements and growing in the garden.

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Flamenco’ – For a good reason this variety carries the name of the popular Spanish traditional dance. Its color is fiery orange and yellow. The edges of the petals are red.

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Merlot’ – This variety comes in lovely white and deep red or purplish color, like wine.

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Teocolote Orange’ – The delicate petals of this variety are of vivid orange color.

The blossoms are lasting and look striking in the garden. This cultivar is a breathtaking plant to have in your garden.

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Teocolote Red’ – This is a variant of the previous variety, only in dramatic red color.

This flower amazes with its rose-like lavish red petals. This Persian buttercup carries the message of romance, passion, and true love.

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Teocolote White’ – The flowers of this variety are beautiful, gentle, and rose-like.

The flowers are of the purest white color and are highly decorative. This variety looks stunning both in a bouquet and growing in the garden.

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