Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ranunculus, and a plaintive plea for spring

I am so, so very sick of this snow. February is, to me, the bitterest month. It's cold, it's bleak and this month, the snow has been relentless. I've yet to see even the tiniest bit of Crocus foliage sprout and the snow makes it hard to even spend much time outdoors.

But, the days are lengthening, ever so slowly. And there is always the Duane Reade official sign of spring, the Peep (TM):

It's getting me so rammy that I finally decided to take some snapshots of plants at a florist. So I walked over to Adore Floral in Noho to see what they had blooming in a climate-controlled showroom.

I'll post a few other shots later this week but today we'll focus on Ranunculus asiaticus, or the Persian buttercup. This species of Ranunculus is native to the Mediterranean region and is a protected flower in Israel. It prefers a dry light soil, hot summers and mild winters.

Because it comes in a wide variety of colors and the big flower heads (with rows and rows of petals), it's a popular favorite in the floral industry, though the blossoms are still quite fragile.

Ranunculus are commonly called buttercup due to the buttery yellow color of another Ranunculus species, R. acris. Ranunculus itself is Latin for "little frog" (Rana=frog) because some species of this genus can be found near wetlands, which are also frequented by frogs.

Speaking of etymology, if the species name acris caught your eye, you'd be interested to know that indeed it is given this name because the plant has a bitter acrid taste that can be fatal to livestock if ingested fresh. It's unlikely, however that a cow or horse would eat much of it, due to the taste and the mouth blisters that animals will get after eating only a little of this plant. If humans handle the plant too much, they will also get a case of dermatitis caused by chemicals that can be released from the plant.

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