1. Meadow Buttercup - Ranunculus acris
2. Cursed Buttercup - Ranunculus lanuginosus (now Ranunculus sceleratus)

The buttercup or anemone (Ranunculus spp.) has a worldwide distribution. The meadow buttercup is probably native to Alaska and Greenland, but it has been a “weedy” plant in North America for as long as Europeans have recorded it. Even though it’s used as a folk medicine in many Native American tribes, the Iroquois are noted to have had issues with it invading squash fields back in the 1700s.

All buttercups have a toxin in them, called protoanemonin or ranunculol, which is activated when the plant is wounded or crushed (as it is in many folk medicines, or when eaten). While it’s not deadly, it causes itching and blisters on the exposed mucosa, and can cause dizziness, nausea, jaundice, and temporary paralysis when ingested.

The Cursed Buttercup has more of this toxin than any other member of the genus, to the point where it can cause rashes and blisters on the skin if you touch damaged leaves.

Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen.  Johann Georg Sturm, illustrated by Jacob Sturm, 1796.

Herb of the Week-Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla)

Common names

Easter Flower
Hartshorn Plant
Pasque Flower
Prairie Smoke
Wild Crocus

Pulsatilla (botanical name Anemone pulsatilla) is a perennially growing herb that grows up to a height of about 18 inches and is swathed with silky bristles or hairs. This plant bears leaves that are delicately divided and produces a single light violet flower having yellow stamens. These stamens develop into downy seed heads when the flowers have withered.

The pasqueflower (also spelt as pasque flower) is a forerunner of spring and has been named so since it blooms during the Easter all through most of its range. In a number of regions in the West as well as Midwest, this plant is also called the prairie smoke. The reason behind giving this name to the plant is that long after the flower blossomed and the fruit head has matured, the elongated hair-like threads which are attached to the fruits become silken as well as feathery. When the wind gusts blow these feather-like tails, ensuing outcome gives a false impression of smoke traversing the prairie. This plant is also known as the wild crocus, which indicates the role of the plant as being a harbinger of spring. The Latin name of the species patens refers to the dispersing manner of the plant’s petals akin to sepals. Since the pasqueflower more often than not produces two flowering stems, the Dakota Sioux Indians have given the plant a name which when literally translated into English implies ‘twinflower’.

In the terms of flowers, the windflower is said to be abandoned. According to myths, the envious Greek goddess Flora transformed the nymph Anemone into a windflower at what time she had drawn the attention of her husband Zephyr. In turn, he deserted Anemone, discarding her to be blown by the wind. It is also said that this flower originated from the blood of Adonis, while the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite wailed over his slain body.

It has been documented that some Indians discovered a number of realistic uses of pulsatilla. These native Indians jammed their nose with the sepals of the plant to facilitate in stopping bleeding. In addition, they also mashed the leaves of the plant and applied it topically to ease rheumatic pains.

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Caltha leptosepala is in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. Commonly known as Marsh Marigold, it is native to the western United States. Marsh Marigold is an herbaceous perennial species found in alpine and subalpine mountainous regions, most often in wetlands and open meadows. As snow begins to melt, Marsh Marigolds can be found blooming along the edge of the snowbank. It has been reported that the roots, flower buds, and new leaves are edible after being cooked, but this should only be done in survival situations as Marsh Marigold contains the toxic compound protoanemonin which can cause vomiting and paralysis.

Photoaday 25 August 2014

Helleborus niger, commonly called Christmas rose or black hellebore, is an evergreen perennial flowering plant in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. It’s one of the first set of flowering plants in my garden this spring.

It is poisonous. It contains protoanemonin, or ranunculin, which has an acrid taste and can cause burning of the eyes, mouth and throat, oral ulceration, gastroenteritis and hematemesis. Not sure why you would want to eat it though!

Although the flowers resemble wild roses (and despite its common name), Christmas rose does not belong to the rose family.

The large, flat flowers, borne on short stems from midwinter to early spring, are white, or occasionally pink. We actually have both in the garden.