Nearly all the 1,500 members of the Buttercup Family are herbaceous. The flowers, whose petals often vary in number, have numerous stamens and several to many pistils with superior ovaries (Fig. 24.2). Most have dissected leaves with no stipules and with petioles that are slightly expanded at the base. Well-known representatives include ornamental plants such as buttercup, columbine, larkspur, anemone, monkshood, and Clematis (Fig. 24.3). Most members of the Buttercup Family are concentrated in north temperate and arctic regions.
Columbine flowers have five spurred petals that resemble a circle of doves. The name comes from columba, the Latin word for dove. A blue and white species of columbine is the state flower of Colorado. Native Americans controlled diarrhea with a tea made from boiled columbine roots, and members of at least two tribes believed columbine seeds to have aphrodisiac properties. A man would pulverize the seeds, and after rubbing them in the palms of his hands, he would try to shake hands with the woman of his choice, believing the woman would then succumb to his advances. Others crushed and moistened the seeds and applied them to the scalp to repel lice.
Most members of the family are at least slightly poisonous, but the cooked leaves of cowslips have been used for food, and the well-cooked roots of the European bulbous buttercup are considered edible. The European buttercup causes blistering on the skin of sensitive individuals. East Indian fakirs are reported to deliberately blister their skin with buttercup juice in order to appear more pitiful when begging. Native Americans of the West gathered buttercup
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