Native To Europe
Buttercup (Ranunculus family) contains over 400 species, including annuals, biennials and perennials that grow in a variety of habitats. Ranunculus means “little frog”, which refers to the flowers’ wetland habitat. In the middle ages, buttercups were gathered in the meadows to try to cure lunatics, leading Shakespeare to call them “cuckoo-buds”. According to childhood lore, if you hold the yellow flower close to your chin and a yellow glow appears there, it shows that you have a fondness for butter.
Ranunculus acris is the common buttercup native to Europe and found in fields, lawns, gardens and roadsides throughout North America. It is a wild, hairy plant that grows to 1-2’ with a golden yellow shiny flower that is cup or saucer-shaped. The flower is ¾-1” wide with 5 petals and blooms April to June. It is named “acris” because the plant has a bitter sap resulting in severe digestive irritation to livestock that ingest it. Subalpine buttercup (R. eschscholtzii) is found in high mountains, meadows and rocky slopes from Alaska to Southern California, and east to the Rockies from Alberta to north New Mexico. It grows low to the ground (2-10”) and has blooms of brilliant yellow flowers with smooth leaves from June to August.
Growing Recommendations - Buttercups
Two species of buttercups most recommended by growers include the Acronite buttercup (R. aconitifolius) and the Mountain buttercup (R. montanus). The Acronite buttercup grows 2-3’ tall and has white saucer-shaped flowers that bloom in late spring into early summer. It prefers full sun or light shade and grows best in moist, well-drained soil. The Mountain buttercup has single, yellow 1” wide flowers that bloom in late spring. The plant grows only 3-6” tall and does best in well-drained soil in a sunny rock garden. Buttercup is grown from rhizomes, tubers or fibrous roots. It is propagated by dividing the roots or tubers in early spring or by sowing from seeds.