The buttercup flower is one of the earliest known garden plants. It was first recorded by the Chinese in 730 AD. They called it Niu Lin (Strainer's Beard). Later, it was recorded by Europeans as Knephalotus pulcherrima. The name pulcherrima comes from the Latin pulcherrima, meaning beard.
Ranunculus bulbs, commonly called St. Anthony's turnips or buttercup, is an annual flowering plant in the buttercup group of the Lamiaceae family, Solanaceae. It has dark yellow flowers, which are obovulately arranged. The flowers are about one to two inches in diameter.
In the United States, the buttercup flower is best known for its tall narrow flower stalks, which is the result of the plant's development cycle. It begins life as a bulbous root pod and attaches itself to the soil where it develops a rhizome and eventually grows into a flower. The average stalks stand up to four feet tall. The flowers open in a V-shape, narrowing to a pointed peak. Each flower has an appearance of a little red bean.
These dark yellow flowers grow on trees and on the ground. The blooms appear to open in a rounded motion and die in a single round cluster. They usually bloom from late spring through early summer. A single flower bud may be present on the crescent end of one bloom. The whole plant appears to be without a rhizome, except for the blooming buds. The plant derives its name from a Portuguese word, “pulcherrima.”
The genus Solanaceae, which includes all of the families of plants in the family, Lamiaceae including the buttercup, contains over two thousand different species. The buttercup, according to Dr. William Chase, author of the classic plant guide, “has a peculiar position in botany. It is the only member of a large group of lamiaceae which possesses both a hardy stem and a fleshy leaf, with its beautiful blooming flowers on the leaf.” This description of the plant matches the accounts in Sanskrit literature of the virtues and attributes of the plant. In ancient India the flower was used as a prayer, as well as a sachet for the dead.
One of the biggest threats to butterflies in the United States is planting. If you are planning to attract them to your yard or garden, be sure to research the species you are considering, and plant only what you know. Some butterflies will only bloom at a certain temperature. Others, such as the Xerces Blue, do not need as much moisture as the other species. When in doubt consult a local biologist or a gardening store owner for further information.