Ranunculus asiaticus or Persian buttercup is recognized more by its scientific genus name Ranunculus. It is a tuberous and herbaceous perennial plant growing to 45 cm, with simple or branched stems. The leaves and the stems are downy. Ranunculus likes cooler weather and thus flowers in spring to early summer. A whorl of petals form three to ten cm diameter, the flowers come in yellow, white, red, orange, pink, purple, violet or mixed colors.
This flower is native to the eastern Mediterranean region, southwestern Asia and northeastern Africa. We learn that it is a protected plant in some places, including Israel.
In my teens, when I came home to Aydın (Turkey) from boarding school during breaks, I used to accompany my mother to the ‘Tuesday’ market, the farmers market set up on Tuesdays for fruits and vegetables. In the spring, the green grocer we favored would have ranunculus gathered from the mountains close by. These would be smaller than the ones that are sold at flower shops and their whorls were tighter. I think they were prettier like that.
In Turkish ranunculus is called ‘erengül’.
Photograph: Gülçin Kori
We call this buttercup ‘wedding flower’ in Turkish. The choice of name must have something to do with the fact that it is a jolly looking little plant; its petals are bright canary yellow and highly lustrous.
The flowers have a two cm diameter and five petals. Both the stems and the leaves are downy.
My favorite buttercup Ranunculus repens or creeping buttercup by its common name, is native to Europe, Asia and northwestern Africa.
I did not know that most buttercups, including R. repens are poisonous. My parents must have known something about it because we never gathered buttercups. When a plant in the Ranunculaceae, the buttercup family, is wounded it releases a substance called ranunculin which in turn brakes down into glucose and protoanemonin, a toxin which causes itches, rashes or blistering on contact with skin. Contact with the sap of the plant can cause skin blistering and due to their acrid taste and blistering of the mouth livestock avoid eating them.
Creeping buttercup grows in fields and pastures. Buttercups usually flower in the spring, but these lovely flowers may be found throughout the summer and early fall.