Buttercup is a name used most commonly to describe the small yellow flowers that appear in our parks. However, the buttercup family is actually quite extensive and they are not all yellow! Here we’ve constructed a simple guide to the three most common buttercups that all have the stereotypical yellow flowers.
Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens
The Buttercup that everyone is familiar with, it’s the species we see strewn through the short grass. It grows commonly in deciduous woodland, cultivated land, dunes, grassland, heathland, hedgerows, meadows, river banks, roadsides, scrub, short turf, wasteland, and as a garden weed.
It grows close to the ground and produces long runners which spread out to colonise the area. The leaves at the base of the plant are hairy with long stalks and are each cut into three, toothed, sections.
The flowers are a deep glossy yellow with five petals and five sepals. The sepals are hairy and clasp the petals from below.
Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris
Also, known as the ‘tall buttercup’, they can grow 20-90 cm tall. They stand erect with the glossy yellow flowers (14-25 mm) at the tips of the branches. The sepals are yellowish green and clasp the petals from below, though they soon fall away once the flowers open.
The leaves at the base of the plant have long stalks and are deeply divided into 3-7 toothed and deeply cut lobes. The leaves on the stem have short stalks and the uppermost leaves have not stalks or teeth.
The sap is a skin irritant and can cause blisters.
Bulbous Buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus
This plant has a similar appearance to creeping buttercup; the plant has a much larger bulb like swelling at the base. They do not produce runners and can grow to a height of 10-40 cm. The leaves on the stem are stalk-less. The main identification feature of this species is the sepals; they are not clasping, they turn back towards the stem.
This can be found in dry grasslands, especially lime rich soils. Also appears in meadows, pastures, churchyards and sand dunes.
Remember, playing the buttercup game as a child well scientists have discovered the real reason why your chin glows yellow.
If you enjoy identifying plants why not give our training courses a go.