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Tuesday, June 14, 2011
BUTTERCUP ( CROWFOOT) - HISTORY OF USES - BEWARE OF BUTTERCUPS
Buttercups are also called Crowfoot and are a common sight in Britain and the rest of Europe as well as the other continents, with different members of the family sprouting in waste land, meadows and lawns. They are names Ranunculus in Latin as a reference to the fields and meadows in which they are so often found. The buttercup family includes the Greater and Lesser Celandines, clematis, wolfsbane and larkspur.
They grow along with daisies and are often found on lawns in Britain. As a child I liked to pick the flowers and hold them under people’s chins to see if they liked butter. If they did the colour of the buttercup would be reflected on their skin.
Animals tend to avoid buttercups because they have an acrid taste and contain a poisonous toxin, protoanemonin which is a potent irritant and causes mouth ulcers and inflammation. Canny beggars in Europe used to use the buttercup to raise blisters and keep the sores open in order to attract more sympathy, and of course, money.
In 1784 a Mr. Plunkett used buttercup leaves as “cure” for cancer. They are supposed to be effective if made into a plaster and put on the forehead to relieve a headache, and were also used to cure gout. The juice from Ranunculus acris the Meadow Buttercup was used to remove warts.
Ranunculus arvensis, the Corn Buttercup was thought to be extinct in Britain until it was discovered growing in Shropshire in July 2010. This one has a spiky seed head which gives rise to its names of Devil’s Claws and Hellweed. All buttercups produce around thirty seeds in each seed pod, and these, too are avoided by grazing animals.
The yellow glossy colour of the buttercup is enhanced by the orange of its pollen and the colour attracts honeybees and other insects which pollinate it.
Ranunculus bulbous contains a juice which provokes sneezing and this has been used to clear the sinuses and to cure some types of headache. This buttercup has a swollen bulbous part at the base of the stem, hence its name, and its juice can produce blisters if rubbed into the skin, so be careful next time you are tempted to pick a glossy buttercup.