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The familiar and widespread buttercup of gardens throughout Northern Europe (and introduced elsewhere) is the creeping buttercup Ranunculus repens, which has extremely tough and tenacious roots. Two other species are also widespread, the bulbous buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus and the much taller meadow buttercup Ranunculus acris. In ornamental gardens, all three are often regarded as weeds.
Buttercups are mostly perennial, but occasionally annual or biennial, herbaceous, aquatic or terrestrial plants, often with leaves in a rosette at the base of the stem. In many perennial species runners are sent out that will develop new plants with roots and rosettes at the distanced nodes. The leaves lack stipules, have petioles, are palmately veined, entire, more or less deeply incised, or compound, and leaflets or leaf segments may be very fine and linear in aquatic species. The hermaphrodite flowers are single or in a cyme, have usually five (but occasionally as few as three or as many as seven) mostly green sepals and usually, five yellow, greenish or white petals that are sometimes flushed with red, purple or pink (but the petals may be absent or have a different, sometimes much higher number). At the base of each petal is usually one nectary gland that is naked or may be covered by a scale. Anthers may be few, but often many are arranged in a spiral, are yellow or sometimes white, and with yellow pollen. The sometimes few but mostly many green or yellow carpels are not fused and are also arranged in a spiral, mostly on a globe or dome-shaped receptacle. The fruits (in this case called achenes) may be smooth or hairy, winged, nobby or have hooked spines.
The name buttercup may derive from a false belief that the plants give butter its characteristic yellow hue (in fact it is poisonous to cows and other livestock). A popular children's game involves holding a buttercup up to the chin; a yellow reflection is supposed to indicate a fondness for butter. (Source: en.wikipedia.org)