The most common Buttercup of our fields (Ranunculus bulbosis)

needs no detailed description. It belongs to the order termed

Ranunculaceoe, so-called from the Latin rana, a frog,

because the several varieties of this genus grow in moist places

where frogs abound. Under the general name of Buttercups

are included the creeping Ranunculus, of moist meadows; the

Ranunculus acris, Hunger Weed, or Meadow Crowfoot, so named
from the shape of the leaf (each of these two being also

called King Cup), and the Ranunculus bulbosus mentioned

above. King-Cob signifies a resemblance between the unexpanded

flowerbud and [72] a stud of gold, such as a king would

wear; so likewise the folded calyx is named Goldcup, Goldknob

and Cuckoobud. The term Buttercup has become conferred through

a mistaken notion that this flower gives butter a yellow

colour through the cows feeding on it (which is not the case),

or, perhaps, from the polished, oily surface of the petals.

The designation really signifies button cop, or bouton d'or;

the batchelor's button; this terminal syllable, cup, being

corrupted from the old English word cop, a head. It really means

button head. The Buttercup generally is known in Wiltshire and

the adjoining counties as Crazy, or Crazies, being reckoned by

some as an insane plant calculated to produce madness; or as a

corruption of Christseye (which was the medieval name of the


A burning acridity of taste is the common characteristic of the

several varieties of the Buttercup. In its fresh state the ordinary

field Buttercup is so acrimonious that by merely pulling up the

plant by its root, and carrying it some little distance in the hand,

the palm becomes reddened and inflamed. Cows will not eat it

unless very hungry, and then the mouth of the animal becomes

sore and blistered. The leaves of the Buttercup, when bruised and

applied to the skin, produce a blistering of the outer cuticle, with a

discharge of a watery fluid, and with heat, redness, and swelling.

If these leaves are masticated in the mouth they will induce pains

like a stitch between the ribs at the side, with the sharp catchings

of neuralgic rheumatism. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from

the bulbous Buttercup with spirit of wine, which will, as a similar,

cure shingles very expeditiously, both the outbreak of

small watery pimples clustered together at the side, and the

accompanying sharp pains between the ribs. Also this tincture will

[73] promptly relieve neuralgic side-ache, and pleurisy which is of

a passive sort. From six to eight drops of the tincture may be taken

with a tablespoonful of cold water by an adult three or four times a

day for either of the aforesaid purposes. In France, this plant is

called jaunet. Buttercups are most probably the Cuckoo Buds

immortalised by Shakespeare. The fresh leaves of the Crowfoot

(Ranunculus acris) formed a part of the famous cancer cure of

Mr. Plunkett in 1794. This cure comprised Crowfoot leaves,

freshly gathered, and dog's-foot fennel leaves, of each an ounce,

with one drachm of white arsenic levigated, and with five scruples

of flowers of sulphur, all beaten together into a paste, and dried by

the sun in balls, which were then powdered, and, being mixed with

yolk of egg, were applied on pieces of pig's bladder. The juice of

the common Buttercup (Bulbosus), known sometimes as St.

Anthony's Turnip, if applied to the nostrils, will provoke

sneezing, and will relieve passive headache in this way. The leaves

have been applied as a blister to the wrists in rheumatism, and

when infused in boiling water as a poultice over the pit of the

stomach as a counter-irritant. For sciatica the tincture of the

bulbous buttercup has proved very helpful.

The Ranunculus flammata, Spearwort, has been used to produce

a slight blistering effect by being put under a limpet shell against

the skin of the part to be relieved, until some smarting and burning

have been sensibly produced, with incipient vesication of the

outermost skin.

The Ranunculus Sceleratus, Marsh Crowfoot, or Celery-leaved

Buttercup, called in France herbe sardonique, and grenouillette

d'eau, when made into a tincture (H.) with spirit of wine,

and given in small diluted doses, proves curative of stitch

in the side, and of neuralgic pains between the ribs, likewise of

pleurisy without [74] feverishness. The dose should be five drops

of the third decimal tincture with a spoonful of water every three

or four hours. This plant grows commonly at the sides of our

pools, and in wet ditches, bearing numerous small yellow flowers,

with petals scarcely longer than the calyx.