Buttercups, Daisies, Dandelions, Clover: A Meadow of Magic  

Posted by on Aug 7, 2020 in Unmowed Blog | 1 comment

buttercup meadowDo you like butter? Inquiring minds want to know. Fortunately, there is one certain way to find out the truth about this important matter. No, it isn’t to take a bite of bread and butter. It’s to hold a buttercup under your chin. If the underside of your chin glows yellow, you definitely are a butter fan.

Of course you like butter. Everyone does. At least, everyone gets a yellowish reflection under their chin. Only buttercups will do, it doesn’t work if you use a dandelion or a daisy. That’s because buttercups have a shiny, almost varnish-like covering on their petals which reflects sunlight as efficiently as a mirror. This is probably an adaptation to make the small buttercup flowers more conspicuous to passing pollinators.

Another question: do you know what time it is? No need to check your phone or your watch—simply pick a dandelion gone to seed. Blow on it hard, three times. The number of seeds left on the stalk will accurately reveal the time of day.

And now a big question, of real importance: does he/she love me? I’ll bet you know how to find out the answer to that one: find a daisy and pluck the petals, one by one, till the last petal reveals your romantic fate. Since daisies, unlike most flowers, vary in the number of petals per flower head, the answer—like life!–is always unpredictable.daisy petals center

You probably know lots of these traditions—knocking on wood, lucky four-leaf clovers. Most of these old beliefs date back well into pre-Christian times, passed along through the oral tradition, from grandmothers, aunts and uncles telling the young’uns their lore. Old wives’ tales, we say now. But they come from that ancient worldview of plants as magical, powerful beings, perhaps inhabited by gods or spirits, able to confer blessings, grant wisdom, and shield you against misfortune.

But the generation that’s growing up now, spending ever more time indoors, doesn’t know all these important ways to answer life’s questions. So I say very stubbornly that these trivial childhood rituals are extremely important. More and more, “nature” is something that kids experience only on a once-a-year field trip, with stern instructions to DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING. Lolling around in a meadow picking daisies and checking out buttercups is not a part of most kids’ reality.

And not just kids. Most of us adults aren’t surrounded by leafy groves during our daily workday. The last time I wanted to “knock on wood” to deflect bad luck, I looked around and couldn’t find anything to knock on in the plastic-and-polyester-filled waiting room.

            So it’s up to us to spread the word! Kids need to know these things. They need to feel relaxed in nature, to feel that it’s a place for play, for fun, for rest, for inspiration.

No need to feel like a vandal when you pick a few daisies or clovers, they’re non-native species. So this summer, grab a kid and get out there and find some lucky clovers. Spread a few dandelions seeds around (hey, a few more won’t matter.) Find some young chins to check out for butter-love.buttercup closeup

teeth of the lion the story of the beloved and despised dandelion sanchez

For more dandelion lore and ecology, check out my book The Teeth of the Lion: The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion.

One Comment

  1. Well done! I think you are right – we adults can also benefit from the advice. Thanks for the heads up!

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