Real reason buttercups glow yellow… and it has nothing to do with your love for butter

Inspired by a popular playground game, scientists at Cambridge set out to find the secret of buttercup’s shine, which turns the child’s neck yellow against the flower held.

Firstly, one notable feature is that light bouncing back at them creates a good effect, while flat mirror-cells resemble the petals of a buttercup flower, particularly those cells that are described as ‘corrugated’.

Butter wouldn't melt: The composition of the flower's petals is the cause of its radiance.

Butter wouldn’t melt: The composition of the flower’s petals is the cause of its radiance.

A ‘gap of air’ situated directly beneath these cells enhances the amount of light that is reflected and intensifies the radiance.

The brilliant white layer of starch in the ‘still petal’ bounces back the light, ensuring that the flower’s head looks yellow from whichever direction it is viewed, and finally, it appears even deeper.

The yellow hue is a result of the absorption of light by the petals.

The colors in the flower’s petals soak up blue-green light, allowing mostly yellow light to be bounced off from the flower.

The buttercup also reflects UV light, likely to attract bees and other pollinating insects, the Journal of the Royal Society Interface reports.

Dr. Silvia Vignolini from the university’s physics department said that the visual appearance of flowers and factors like temperature and scent play a significant role in the relationships between flowers and pollinators.

The buttercup’s glossy appearance, such as its unique optical response, contributes to the development of brilliant colors or additional cues in its flowers.

‘Furthermore, the shininess could also imitate the existence of nectar droplets on the petals, enhancing their attractiveness even further.’

Dr Beverley Glover, from the plant sciences department, stated: ‘This occurrence has fascinated scientists and non-experts alike for hundreds of years.

Our research provides an exciting insight into attracting pollinators to go into flowers, which also extends to a game for children.

Professor Ullrich Steiner, who is leading the research, stated that the physical characteristics of the petals indicate that everyone should ‘enjoy butter’.

He advised on how to achieve optimal outcomes in the child’s game, mentioning that there is typically sunshine available. According to him, if you place the flower beneath your chin, it generally reflects the sunlight upwards. He further added that this process is not excessively difficult.