Butterflowers, Gold-cups, Gold-knops, Kings-cups, and finally the original German derivation, Butterblume, these are all names this little yellow, shiny-petaled wildflower has been called. I remember it particularly associated with a childhood game my friends and I would play with each other by picking a flower and holding it under each other's chins to see if we liked butter. If the yellow flower reflected off our chins, it was supposed to prove that we did. It's actually the bright glossiness of the petals that causes them to reflect off our skin, however. But we children didn't know that, and maybe thought there was some truth to be discovered in our little game. In some parts of the United States, though, this wildflower is known as Coyote's Eyes. The legend for this one says there once was a coyote who was playing a game of tossing his eyes high into the air and then catching them. A passing eagle snatched the eyes on one of the tosses and the coyote made new eyes from the Buttercup. Interesting. Playing and legends aside, buttercups are in the the large genus of flowering plants called Ranunculus. It is poisonous to eat for humans and cattle until it has been dried, when the poison is not active. Green or dried, I don't think I would want to eat it anyway, as it is supposed to have a very bitter taste. Buttercup has been used often as a girl's name or nickname, and Gilbert and Sullivan in their operetta "HMS Pinafore" had a character so named who had a solo and who sang these silly words,
I'm called Little Buttercup,
Dear Little Buttercup,
Though I could never tell why.
But still I'm called Buttercup,
Poor Little Buttercup,
Sweet Little Buttercup I.
Legends, children's games, songs, cutesy names, all of the above for this little flower that brightens and graces our fields and roadsides each spring. It is just another reason to welcome spring and enjoy the beauty it brings into our lives.