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Buttercups and Daisies: Lovely Flowers of Spring and Summer

Linda Crampton is a writer and experienced science teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys writing about science and nature.

A buttercup flower

A buttercup flower

Beautiful Wildflowers

Buttercups and daisies are two of my favourite plants. They were the first wildflowers that I learned to recognize as a child. 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 that 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 very cheerful with their yellow centres and white petals. I enjoy photographing both plants. Unless otherwise noted, the photos in this article were taken by me.

An older buttercup flower

An older buttercup flower

Tall and Creeping Buttercups

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.

Features of Flowers, Stems, and Leaves

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 flowers of the creeping buttercup usually have five glossy yellow petals as well. The centre of the flower has multiple green carpels (female structures) surrounded by multiple and longer yellow stamens (male structures). The flower stem is hairy and usually branches to form several flowers.

The leaves of the tall buttercup are broad, lobed, and toothed. They 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 their taller relative and often have pale green patches on their surface.

A carpel is composed of a stigma, style, and ovary. In a plant with only one carpel or with multiple carpels that are separate, as in a buttercup, each carpel may be called a pistil. When two or more carpels are joined together, the word pistil means the compound structure.

Reflective and Glowing Flowers

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. The petals owe their beautiful shine to their enhanced reflective abilities. The shiny appearance is thought to attract pollinating insects from far away. One Cambridge University researcher has suggested that the shine on buttercup petals may look like nectar to bees.

Researchers have discovered that buttercup petals also 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 while they forage for pollen and nectar.

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, while others have the opposite point of view.

Why Do Buttercups Make Skin Glow Yellow?

Physicists at Cambridge University in England have discovered how the yellow skin colour is produced by buttercups. The petals have a layer of flat epidermal cells on their surface. These cells contain the carotenoids that reflect yellow light and absorb light of other colours. The very flat nature of the cells enhances reflection. There is more to a buttercup's reflective abilities than this, however.

Unlike other common wildflowers, the petals have a second epidermal layer under the first one. The two layers are separated by air. The second layer of epidermal cells and the air layer in the petals reflect light that manages to pass through the first layer of epidermis. Some light therefore passes through the carotenoid pigments twice–once as it passes into the petal and again as it travels out. This gives the flower a rich yellow colour as viewed by our eyes. The enhanced ability of buttercups to reflect light produces a glow on surfaces such as the skin under the chin.

Buttercups and daisies

Buttercups and daisies

Ranunculin: 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. It may also 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 in the plant converts ranunculin into protoanemonin. This is a bitter tasting and volatile yellow oil that is responsible for the irritating effect of buttercup plants. A person's skin may become red and irritated if they crush a 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 because the ranunculin dissipates during the drying process. This means that animals can safely eat hay that contains the dried plants. It's important to be certain that the plants are completely dry, though.

Facts About 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 the part of North America where I currently live. 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.

In my area, most daisies begin to bloom in spring before buttercups do and are always a welcome sight. In one spot near my home, though, a few flowers are often visible in winter, which is a mild season where I live. Bellis perennis is sometimes able to flower in winter if the conditions are suitable. The winter blooms in my part of the world are nowhere near as abundant or as vibrant as the spring ones, though.

The species is sometimes planted deliberately as a cultivated plant. Beds, borders, and rock gardens are popular places to display the plant. Daisies grow well in containers. The species is invasive in some areas, however. It’s sometimes considered to be an annoying weed rather than a desirable garden plant.

A Time Lapse Video of Growing Daisies

A Composite Inflorescence

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.

Although the flower head of a daisy is technically known as an inflorescence because it's made of multiple flowers, or florets as they are properly called, the inflorescence is more commonly referred to as a flower. Like many other people, I follow this convention.

An Edible Plant

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. A caper is a green flower bud of a different species.

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.

A Rumour Concerning 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 about 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 daisy poultice or ointment shouldn't be used to treat open wounds. Anything that comes into contact with an open or bleeding wound must be sterile.

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 a small number of flowers are picked.

The process of making a chain is simple.

  1. Pick some daisies.
  2. Make a slit in one flower’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 flower’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 flower’s stem through it.
A larger relative of the common daisy

A larger relative of the common daisy

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 beautiful sight and a lovely link to my childhood.


Questions & Answers

Question: How do we care for buttercups? We have ours in a pot on our patio and it has no flowers.

Answer: I’m interested in buttercups growing in the wild. I’ve never grown cultivated ones, so I'm afraid I can’t give you care tips. A plant nursery or plant store in your area could probably help you encourage your plant to flower, especially if they know the type of buttercup that you have in the pot.

© 2012 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 20, 2015:

Thank you so much, Roberto!

Roberto on May 20, 2015:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 08, 2014:

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

ologsinquito from USA on August 08, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 27, 2012:

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

Life Under Construction from Neverland on August 27, 2012:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 12, 2012:

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!

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on July 12, 2012:

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 I wouldn't even venture to taste them! But they look so fresh!

Interesting Hub! Beautiful photographs!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 12, 2012:

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!

chrissieklinger from Pennsylvania on July 12, 2012:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 12, 2012:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 12, 2012:

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

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on July 12, 2012:

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!


Movie Master from United Kingdom on July 12, 2012:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2012:

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.

moonlake from America on July 11, 2012:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2012:

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

Karen Wilton from Australia on July 11, 2012:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2012:

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.

brenda12lynette from Utah on July 11, 2012:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2012:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2012:

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!

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on July 11, 2012:

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 !!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2012:

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.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 11, 2012:

Nice job, AliciaC. I love wildflowers, and I use to do the same 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?

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 11, 2012:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

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!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on July 10, 2012:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

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.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on July 10, 2012:

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.


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

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

Blurter of Indiscretions from Clinton CT on July 10, 2012:

Daisies are my favorite. Beautiful pictures!

Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on July 10, 2012:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2012:

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.

kumar24894 from Fuck of HUBPAGES on July 10, 2012:

So many beautiful clicks . Nice photography. Voted up !

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on July 10, 2012:

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.

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