By Tonneli Grüetter
Ranunculus is just one of about 50 genera in the Ranunculaceae family (a.k.a. buttercup or crowfoot family), which comprises between 1,700 and 2,000 known species of herbs and, sometimes, shrubs (the number varies depending on source). Common flower shop cousins of Ranunculus asiaticus—the most common species grown as cut flowers—include Anemone; Aconitum (monkshood); the larkspurs, Delphinium and Consolida; Clematis; and Helleborus.
Defined as an herbaceous soft-stemmed plant, grown from corms, Ranunculus asiaticus (common name: Persian buttercup) is available in a dazzling array of flower forms (single, semi-double, double, frilled, etc.) and colors; there are more than 250 species of Ranunculus alone. Although it is believed Ranunculus originated in central Asia, these flowers have been cultivated in Europe since antiquity and have adapted well to growing in both North and South America.
Popular hybrid series of Ranunculus asiaticus include ‘Aazur’, ‘Butterfly’, ‘Elegance’, ‘Cloni Success’ and ‘Cloni Pon-Pon’, and the exotic ‘Morocco’ series, all of which have legions of fans, from florists to consumers. There are also striking novelty varieties, such as ‘Sisteron’, ‘Bastille’, ‘Odon’, ‘Vouvray’ and ‘Giverny’, that some florists and consumers alike have difficulty identifying as Ranunculus.
In recent years, Italian and Japanese Ranunculus varieties have gained popularity among high-end florists, who prize them for their large blooms, sturdy stems, bloom and petal forms, and incredible range of naturally occurring colors. Alternatively, for florists looking for a delicate touch, Japanese-bred ‘Butterfly’ varieties offer a fluttering spray of silky petals, with each stem holding multiple blossoms.
Peak supply of premium cut-flower-quality Ranunculus is available each year from January through May, with the season sometimes tapering off early in the case of extreme heat waves. When processing these blooms, it is best to avoid over saturating or crowding stems; Ranunculus have soft, hairy stems that are extra susceptible to mold and mildew when placed in water. The flower care experts at FloraLifealso recommend against storing Ranunculus in metal or galvanized buckets and avoiding using softened water to prepare flower food solution for these flowers.
Ranunculus: Fable and Fact
• One legend has it that the Ranunculus flower came in being when a handsome Persian prince fell in love with a beautiful but haughty nymph. He tried to woo her by singing songs to her, but she rejected his advances. He eventually died from a broken heart, and a Ranunculus flower is said to have emerged from the soil upon which he died.
• Derived from Latin words rana and unculus, “Ranunculus” means little frog—not alluding to their appearance but rather to where they often found growing naturally: in wet marshy areas “among the frogs.”
For those looking to experience the immersive beauty of fields of spring Ranunculus in person, Certified American Grown (CAG) offers an annual ocean-side gourmet dining experience at Mellano & Company’s “The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch” in Carlsbad, Calif., which is one stop of CAG’s 2023 “Field to Vase Dinner Tour.” The ticketed event is scheduled for April 20 this year; you can register (hurry!) at americangrownflowers.org/field-to-vase. Each year, from around March 1 through Mother’s Day, this commercial grower of Ranunculus opens its 55-acre farm to visitors around the world, to view the waves of brilliant color.