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Bulbous buttercup

This month it is buttercups, of  under your chin to see if you like butter fame.

There is a big family of plants called Ranunculaceae and in that family there are a group or genus of plants called Ranunculus. This includes not only buttercups but also lesser celandine, and plants called spearworts and crowfoots both of which tend to be aquatic plants.

Even within the plants with the common name of buttercup there are many different sorts so let’s make a start with sorting them out and see if we can identify the three commonest ones. These are the bulbous buttercup (Ranunculus repens), the creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and the meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris). Below are some photos of these three. Can you spot the differences?

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First le’ts deal with the bulbous buttercup.  It has a bulb at its base which is how it gets its name, but it is not good to go digging up wild flowers just to identify them so there is an easier way. Look at its sepals. These are the bits under the petals which protect the flower when it is in bud. The sepals of the bulbous buttercup are turned downwards whereas the other two have their sepals up and just below the petals.

Now how do we split the creeping buttercup from the meadow buttercup?  For these we need to look at the leaves. They are quite split up and ragged but the creeping buttercup has leaves made up of leaflets which have their own individual stalks. This is known as a ‘compound’ leaf.  The meadow buttercup’s leaf is all in one piece and is known as being ‘entire’.  Be careful though not to think that if the leaves are compound leaves that it must be a creeping buttercup because the bulbous buttercup also has compound leaves.  There are also lots of other less common buttercups such as the hairy buttercup, the corn buttercup, the celery-leaved buttercup and the small flowered buttercup to name just a few so if you really want to get to grips with them get a book like the one recommended in my good books page.

So there you have it and now with a quick look you can impress??? your friends with your knowledge of buttercups!