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Buttercups and Daisies - Beautiful Wildflowers of Spring and Summer

Updated on May 17, 2015
AliciaC profile image

Linda Crampton is a teacher with an honours degree in biology. She loves to study nature and write about animals and plants.

A buttercup flower
A buttercup flower | Source

Buttercups and daisies were the first wildflowers that I learned to recognize as a child. They were common plants in the countryside around my home. My friends and I would often pick the flowers and press them between sheets of newspaper to dry them. Sometimes we would hold a shiny buttercup under someone else’s chin, looking for the golden reflection which indicated that they liked butter. We would join the daisies together to make daisy chains and wear them around various parts of our body as jewelry.

My childhood was spent in Britain, but here in British Columbia the buttercups and daisies still greet me each spring and summer. I’m always happy when I see the first flowers emerge. The buttercups have a beautiful golden glow. The daisies look so lovely with their yellow centres and white petals. Many other wildflowers bloom in my neighbourhood and the nearby wilder areas, but the buttercups and daisies are two of my favourites.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A yellow buttercup flower in JulyThe leaves of the creeping buttercup often have pale green spots.The goldilocks buttercup, or Ranunculus auricomusThe leaves of the tall buttercup are more dissected than those of the creeping buttercup.
A yellow buttercup flower in July
A yellow buttercup flower in July | Source
The leaves of the creeping buttercup often have pale green spots.
The leaves of the creeping buttercup often have pale green spots. | Source
The goldilocks buttercup, or Ranunculus auricomus
The goldilocks buttercup, or Ranunculus auricomus | Source
The leaves of the tall buttercup are more dissected than those of the creeping buttercup.
The leaves of the tall buttercup are more dissected than those of the creeping buttercup. | Source

The Buttercup Plant

Buttercups are common plants in coastal British Columbia. As their name suggests, their flower is often cup-like, although sometimes it has a flatter appearance. There are hundreds of different species of buttercups, all belonging to the genus Ranunculus and the family Ranunculaceae. The flowers of many buttercups are yellow. Others have white petals and a yellow centre. Some have orange or red flowers.

Buttercups are generally herbaceous perennials. A common species in my area is the tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris). It's called "tall" to distinguish it from the creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), which also occurs in my area. Both species were introduced to North America from Europe. The flower stem of the tall buttercup sometimes reaches a height of three feet. The creeping buttercup reaches a maximum height of one foot but is usually shorter.

The flowers of the tall buttercup are a bright and glossy yellow. They generally have five petals but may have as many as seven. The centre of the flower has multiple pistils (female) and stamens (male). The flower stem is hairy and usually branches to form several flowers. As in other buttercups, the leaves of the tall buttercup are broad, deeply lobed and toothed. The leaves are also hairy and produce a lovely soft sensation when they are lightly stroked. The leaves of the creeping buttercup are less dissected than those of the tall buttercup and also tend to have pale green patches on their surface.

Buttercups

A Toxin in Buttercups

As beautiful as they are, fresh buttercup plants are actually poisonous. The flowers, seeds and leaves are all toxic. They can produce blisters in the mouths of animals and children who try to eat them. Animals and people usually discard the irritating plant at this point, so dangerous poisoning is rare. If the plant is retained and swallowed, it will irritate the lining of the digestive tract and other mucous membranes. This will produce more blisters and a variety of other symptoms, such as excessive salivation, nausea, colic, bloody diarrhea, difficulty breathing, convulsions and paralysis.

The poisonous substance in buttercups is called ranunculin. This chemical belongs to a family known as glycosides. When the buttercup plant is crushed, as it is when an animal chews it, an enzyme converts ranunculin into protoanemonin. This is a bitter tasting and volatile yellow oil responsible for the irritating effect of buttercup plants. A person's skin may become red and irritated if they crush a buttercup plant. I don't remember being irritated by buttercups when I picked them as a child, but I suppose it must have happened sometimes. Dried buttercups are not poisonous, so animals can safely eat hay that contains the dried plants.

An older buttercup flower
An older buttercup flower | Source

Why Do Buttercups Make Skin Glow Yellow?

Buttercups are loved for their ability to make skin glow yellow when the flower is held under the chin. The glow and the link to liking bright yellow butter was popular in my childhood. Butter was considered to be a wholesome food by some people at that time. Some people today have the same opinion.

Buttercups are yellow because they contain pigments called carotenoids. These pigments absorb most of the colours in light but reflect the yellow part of the spectrum, making the flowers appear yellow to a viewer.

Physicists at Cambridge University in England have discovered an important factor in the creation of a yellow skin colour by buttercups. Buttercup petals have a layer of flat epidermal cells at their surface. These cells contain carotenoids and reflect yellow light. Unlike other common wildflowers, the petals have a second epidermal layer under the first one. This second layer reflects the yellow light that manages to pass through the first epidermal layer. The two epidermal layers are separated by air. The enhanced ability of buttercups to reflect yellow light produces a yellow glow on surfaces such as the skin under the chin.

Buttercups and daisies
Buttercups and daisies | Source

Buttercups and Ultraviolet Light

Researchers have discovered that buttercup petals reflect ultraviolet light very well. We can't see this light, but insects such as the bees that pollinate the buttercup can. The bees fly towards the UV light that they detect while foraging for pollen and nectar. One Cambridge University researcher suggests that the shine on buttercup petals may look like nectar to bees. This may further help to attract them.

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Common daisiesCommon daisies in the sun and shade Bee on a daisyWhite and pink common daisies
Common daisies
Common daisies | Source
Common daisies in the sun and shade
Common daisies in the sun and shade | Source
Bee on a daisy
Bee on a daisy | Source
White and pink common daisies
White and pink common daisies | Source

The Daisy Plant

My father was the naturalist in my family. He taught me my first scientific name - Bellis perennis. This is the name of a common European daisy that has spread to other areas, including North America. In Latin, Bellis means pretty and perennis means everlasting or eternal. The word "daisy" is thought to have arisen from the phrase "day's eye", referring to the fact that the daisy flower opens up during the day but closes at night. The common daisy is also known as the lawn daisy and the English daisy.

Like buttercups, the common daisy is a herbaceous perennial. The flower is born on a long flower stalk which rises above the basal rosette of leaves. The leaves grow close to the ground and are spatulate, or spoon-shaped.

Daisies belong to the family Asteraceae, also known as the Compositae family. The latter name refers to the fact that that although the flower head looks like it's made of just one flower, it actually consists of many miniature flowers. These flowers are of two types. The yellow disk at the centre of the flower head is made of many individual disk flowers. Each white petal is really the single petal of an individual ray flower extending from the disk. The petals of the ray flowers are sometimes tinged with pink.

The flower head of a daisy is an infloresence because it's made of multiple flowers. It's more commonly referred to as a flower, however.

Daisies Growing - A Time Lapse Video

Edible Daisies

Unlike the poisonous buttercup, common daisies are edible. The young leaves, flowers and buds can be eaten raw or cooked, but the older leaves are bitter. The plant parts are used in salads, soups and infusions. Some people like to pickle the flower buds in vinegar and use them like capers.

If you decide to collect daisies to eat or to make infusions, remember to be absolutely certain of your plant identification. There are several plants that can be confused with common daisies. Other types of wild daisies and daisy-like flowers bloom in spring and summer in addition to the common daisy. In addition, don't pick plants from areas likely to have been contaminated by pesticides or passing traffic. The common daisy is considered to be an invasive weed in some areas and may well have been treated with herbicides.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A close-up view of a daisyA common blue butterfly on a daisyNot every flower that looks like a daisy is one. This is the Philadelphia fleabane.The common daisy has spoon-shaped leaves.
A close-up view of a daisy
A close-up view of a daisy | Source
A common blue butterfly on a daisy
A common blue butterfly on a daisy | Source
Not every flower that looks like a daisy is one. This is the Philadelphia fleabane.
Not every flower that looks like a daisy is one. This is the Philadelphia fleabane. | Source
The common daisy has spoon-shaped leaves.
The common daisy has spoon-shaped leaves. | Source

Daisies and Wound Care

In folklore, daisies are frequently described as having the ability to heal wounds and bruises. The plant has traditionally been used for this purpose in the past. Even today, some herbalists make numerous claims for the healing abilities of the common daisy. At the moment, scientific evidence for these claims is lacking. This doesn't necessarily mean that the claims are untrue. It's premature to conclude that the plant is a useful wound treatment, though.

A Labrador retriever wearing a daisy chain
A Labrador retriever wearing a daisy chain | Source

How to Make a Daisy Chain

Daisy chains are fun for children to make. Some adults enjoy making them, too! Joining daisies in a ring creates a chain that can be used as a bracelet, a necklace or a crown. Provided lots of daisies are blooming in an area, the population won't be hurt if daisies are picked to make a chain.

The process of making a daisy chain is simple.

  1. Pick some daisies.
  2. Make a slit in one daisy's stem with a fingernail. If your nails aren't long enough, use a knife or scissors. (Be careful with sharp edges.)
  3. Thread a second daisy's stem through the hole in the first stem.
  4. Make a slit in the second daisy's stem.
  5. Thread a third daisy's stem through the hole in the second stem.
  6. Repeat the process until the chain is the desired length.
  7. To finish the chain, make a second slit in the first daisy's stem and thread the last daisy's stem through it.

A larger relative of the common daisy
A larger relative of the common daisy | Source

Spring and Summer Wildflowers

Buttercups and daisies have been an important part of my summer for many years. I love looking at wildflowers on my walks and I enjoy photographing them. The rich, lustrous glow of buttercup petals and the cheery, vibrant appearance of the contrasting yellow centres and white rays of daisies add a great deal of pleasure to a spring or summer walk. The flowers are a lovely link to my childhood.

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    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I'm enjoy the daisies and buttercups too - a lawn with daisies is so much prettier. I'm surprised to read that you have both these plants in BC.

    • kumar24894 4 years ago from Fuck of HUBPAGES

      So many beautiful clicks . Nice photography. Voted up !

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I agree, Nettlemere - I like seeing daisies on lawns! The climate here in coastal British Columbia is mild and much like the climate where I lived in Britain. The interior of BC is colder and snowier in winter than the coast, though, and hotter in summer.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, kumar24894. It's nice to meet you!

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      I love your close-up photo's they make the flowers look amazing.

      I too remember making daisy chains when times were more relaxed.

      Voted across the top except for funny,Joyce.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      Daisies are my favorite. Beautiful pictures!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you, Joyce. My camera does take good close-up photos, which I'm very happy about! I appreciate all your votes.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I think that daisies are beautiful, too, Julie! Thank you for the comment.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      This was very beautiful hub. I love flowers and I found wonderful of flowers here. Thanks, Alicia for writing and introduce these flowers with us. Vote up and shared.

      Prasetio

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment, the vote and the share, Prasetio! I love flowers as well. They add so much beauty to life.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      Beautiful buttercups and delightful daisies. Summer must be here, Alicia. Thank you for the lovely photos and flowery information.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the visit, drbj. It's lovely to look at summer flowers. It will be a shame when the season is over - but at least there will be next summer to look forward to!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Daisies were always one of my favorite flowers. We used to pick them wild and make bouquets of them and give them to my mother and grandmother when we were kids. I had no idea that they were edible. I don't remember seeing buttercups. Enjoyed this hub and I always learn something new by reading what you write. The photos were wonderful. Voted beautiful and interesting and will share.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Nice job, AliciaC. I love wildflowers, and I use to do the same thing.....press them between heavy books. Nowadays there are flower drying kits available. One wildflower that we have here is Queen Anne's Lace. Are you familiar with it?

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Peggy. Thank you for the comment, the votes and the share - as always, I appreciate them very much! I think that daisies are lovely flowers, too. Their yellow and white pattern is very attractive.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend, enjoyed reading this well written hub about these very beautiful flowers. Buttercups and daisies will help to make any yard look very beautiful .

      Vote up and more !!!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, rebeccamealey. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Yes, we do have Queen Anne's Lace here. Strangely enough, I was looking at some Queen Anne's Lace flowers yesterday on one of my walks and was thinking that I should take a photo, because they are such pretty flowers (and they have such a lovely name). I was in a rush to get home at the time, but I'll be returning to photograph the flowers!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Tom! I agree - buttercups and daisies do make gardens look nice. I certainly don't consider them to be weeds. I appreciate your comment and votes, Tom.

    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 4 years ago from Utah

      I love daisies! My wedding flowers were Gerber daisies. I also have some growing in a flower pot on my front porch. Great hub and voted up and beautiful!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Gerber daisies are so colorful and beautiful, brenda12lynette! They must have been a lovely addition to your wedding. They must look so cheerful in a flower pot, too. Thank you very much for the comment and the votes.

    • Karanda profile image

      Karen Wilton 4 years ago from Australia

      Daisies are so reliable aren't they? Flowering at just the right time to brighten our days. I can't imagine a garden without them. Really useful information in your Hub AliciaC. Thanks for sharing.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the visit and the comment, Karanda. Yes, I agree - daisies (and buttercups) are lovely flowers for brightening a day!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Love your photos they are so good. I have been taking pictures of our daisies too. But didn't get one as good as yours. Voted up.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you, moonlake. I appreciate your comment and vote. Taking photos of flowers is fun, and is very worthwhile, even if the photos don't turn out as well as we hope! It's lovely to have a record of the flowers before they disappear.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Alicia, what a fabulous, fabulous hub - I thoroughly enjoyed reading and your photos are outstanding!

      Thank you for this treat, voted up and shared

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 4 years ago from Sweden

      Buttercups and Daisies are wonderful sign of summer and they are both favorites of mine. Somehow I appreciate them more and more. It is so easy to take wild flowers for granted since they grow without our help but they are really beautiful. Wonderful photos and interesting article! Voted up!

      Tina

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you so much for such a kind comment, Lesley!! I appreciate the comment, the vote and the share very much!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Tina. Yes, buttercups and daisies are so common in some places that

      I expect some people do stop noticing them, which is a shame. They are beautiful flowers. Thank you very much for the comment and the vote!

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I too love daisies! I never heard about holding the buttercup to your face..interesting!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Chrissie. Thanks for the visit. My friends and I used to like playing the buttercup game when we were children. It's interesting to see the yellow color that a buttercup produces on the skin when the sunlight is hitting the flower at the right angle!

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Well, I never knew the daisy was edible! However, I don't think I would eat them since every bouquet I have ever picked in Ontario has always had a ton of tiny little bugs inside the yellow portion...so I wouldn't even venture to taste them! But they look so fresh!

      Interesting Hub! Beautiful photographs!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the visit and the comment, Scribenet. Yes, finding insects in daisies would put me off eating them, too. I'd rather admire them than eat them in that situation!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Ohhh alicia, the daisies are soo lovely. they're simple yet elegant looking flowers.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      That's a good way of describing daisy flowers, unknown spy. They are beautiful. Thanks for the visit.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

      Growing up in the United States, I remember people doing the same thing to me, with buttercups, to see if I liked butter. This practice apparently has spread far and wide.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Yes, I think it's a lovely tradition! Thank you very much for commenting, ologsinquito.

    • Roberto 20 months ago

      Very nice shots and video/voice, Alicia...

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you so much, Roberto!

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