Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1.  [Wolverhampton] Don [aged 78] remembers a trick played by holding a buttercup up to someone’s nose and saying ‘smell cheese’, and then hitting the person on the nose! [Lichfield, Staffordshire, February 2015].

2.  Yellow buttercup (Ranunculus) – holding a flower under your chin showed whether you liked butter [University of Otago, New Zealand, October 2013].

3. [North Hampshire, c.1940s] Children’s games etc.: A chant – Hold a buttercup under the chin and say: ‘Do you like butter?’ if there is a yellow reflection on the skin, it is yes ‘Do you like cheese?’ same again, I think ‘Do you like sitting on housemaid’s knee?’ occasion for much giggling [Orpington, Kent, February 2007].

4. A buttercup held under the chin, if it glared yellow it meant you liked butter. Thetford, Norfolk, 1969 [Natural History Museum, London, December 2004].

5. Holding a buttercup under a chin to see if a person likes butter [St Martin, Guernsey, April 2002].

6. [Girl, aged c. 8] If you hold a buttercup under your chin and you get a yellow colour that means you like butter. I did it to my grandmother the other day, and there was yellow, and she said she did like butter [Heathfield School, Pinner, Middlesex, May 2001].

7. My mother, who is 86, says that she remembers from her childhood in Higham Ferrers, Northants, that … a buttercup held under a person’s chin indicated that he or she liked butter if it reflected on their skin [Waltham Abbey, Essex, March 1991].

8. Buttercup ointment – put vaseline into a pan with as many buttercup flowers (without stems) as can possibly be pressed into it. Allow to simmer, not boil, for three-quarters of an hour. While hot strain through muslin into small pots. It is ready for use when cold and is very good for all skin trouble [St Ervan, Cornwall, January 1992].

9. Crowfoot or buttercup (Ranunculus repens) if applied and held in position with a bandage would cause rheumatic joints to blister and was said to cure this complaint [Cong, Co. Mayo, January 1992].

Images:  main, Saxon Shore Way between Ecclesbourne Glen and Fairlight Glen, East Sussex, May 2014;  inset, Bird’s custard advertisement, ‘one of a group of  many hundreds published between 1912 and 1937’.