The Ranunculus is a mostly herbaceous perennial plant and there are around 600 species in the Ranunculaceae family. Common members of this family of plants include buttercups, water crowfoots, lesser celandine and spearworts.
Most Ranunculus plants have yellow or white flowers and you will also find orange and red in some species of the plant.The Ranunculus can have five or six petals but some have many more and even none at all such as the ranunculus auricomus or Goldilocks buttercup. The yellow species usually have very lustrous and velvet-like petals. Flowering, especially in the case of buttercups, usually occurs in the spring but some may flower all year round, depending on where they are growing.
The Water crowfoots are usually found in still or running water and have two different leaf types; wider floating leaves and underwater thread-like leaves. Some species of Ranunculus are attractive and make trendy ornamental flowers in horticulture, with many cultivated varieties selected for large and brightly coloured flower arrangements.
The name Ranunculus in Latin means “little frog” and possibly comes from many of the species being found near still or running water. Regarding the name buttercup, it may come from the false belief that the flower gives butter its yellow hue. It is in fact quite poisonous to cattle, horses and other livestock. Many people also remember the children’s game where you had to hold a yellow buttercup to your chin. If you got a yellow reflection, it meant you were fond of or liked butter.
The Ranunculus species are often used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species (moths and butterflies), including the hebrew character and small angle shades moths.