A Spring Flower Perfect for the Holidays

It is cold, bright, and definitely winter outdoors and, today being Epiphany (as celebrated—the actual feast is on the 6th), we are winding down the Christmas season with all of its feasting and goodies. How much butter have we consumed in the last few weeks? Too much!

So, butter. Buttercups. You can’t have a lineup of spring flowers without buttercups. They’re iconic; instantly recognizable. They’re on of the first flowers little children learn to recognize. I can remember holding a blossom under a playmate’s chin to see if they “loved butter.” I seem to have misunderstood the tradition, though. You’re supposed to look at their chin for the reflection of yellow from the shiny petals. I always though the point was to mash the flower into the friend, leaving a smear. Yep, definitely yellow!

Buttercups belong to the genus Ranunculus, the type genus for the Ranunculaceae, introduced in a previous post. Think: divided leaves, yellow flowers, lots of stamens, lots of stamens, little achene fruits. That covers most of them. There are a few with white petals or no petals at all, and not all have divided leaves. The yellow ones, though are almost always a bright chrome yellow with no hint of orange or red at all. And shiny! To me, the petals have always looked like they were cut from fancy wrapping paper, the glossy kind that tape can barely stick down. They like to hang out in wet places, and a stretch of wet pasture or roadside solid yellow with them is a sight to behold.

There are multiple species of Ranunculus in Texas, and someday I hope to do a piece with several different kinds. But for now, I chose Ranunculus fascicularis. It is easy to identify. The leaflets, aside from lobing, have smooth margins, and the petals are relatively long and “strappy”, as opposed to some of our others with toothy leaflet margins and short petals.

The above photo shows a low-growing individual, but usually the flowers stand well above the foliage.

I did a sketch with front and side views of flowers, a bud, and a head of achenes.

I know the petals are long, but they still looked a bit too long, so I shortened them in the charting.

The larger the charts become, the worse the screen-caps of them look! That floating flower in the upper right shows the flower as it would be stitched, with some long backstitches forming the stamens:

The side-view flower would be done in two shades, just to keep the petals at least a little distinct:

This is one case where I can compare my work directly with Gerda’s. I’m not sure I have a buttercup chart of hers, but I found some images of different species online.

She didn’t do a face-on flower, possibly to avoid having to deal with the stamens. That is always an option, and I could easily amend the chart to feature two side-view flowers.

All in all, I’m pleased with how this turned out. I look forward to sharing other buttercups in the future!