Buttercups 101

buttercup

Buttercups are familiar wildflowers of open fields, roadsides and river banks.   They belong to the genus Ranunculus containing about 500 species of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae. These plants flower from April to May, but flowers may be present throughout the summer. Some species are popular ornamental flowers in horticulture, with many cultivars selected for large and brightly colored flowers.

The yellow petals are often bright and glossy, owing to a special coloration mechanism. The petal’s upper surface is flat causing a mirror-like reflection with sunlight that is comparable to glass. The reflected color is yellow due to the absorption of colors in the blue-green region of the spectrum by carotenoid pigment located inside the petals. The flashy color aids in attracting pollinating insects and helps in temperature regulation of the flower’s reproductive organs.

Buttercups have leaves attached as a whorl around the stem. In many perennial species runners are sent out that will develop new plants as a form of asexual reproduction. The leaves lack stipules at the petiole base.

The flowers have both male and female reproductive structures. Each flower has sepals or bud leaves with five yellow, green or white petals. At the base of each petal is usually one nectary gland that is naked or may be covered by a scale. Male anthers are often arranged in a spiral with yellow pollen which will become the male gametophyte. The female portion of the flower have green or yellow individual carpels. These structures contain the female gametophyte.

Ranunculus_glaberrimus_labelled

Some Facts about buttercups:

  • Can grow from 14 to 16 inches in height
  • Have cup-shaped flowers composed of 5 petals
  • Flowers are usually bright yellow colored
  • Have lustrous flowers thanks to special layer of reflective cells
  • Buttercups are poisonous to humans and livestock. Contact may cause dermatitis.
  • Can be propagated via parts of the root and bulb or via seed

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