This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
No trace of achenes of this pest to the farmer has been found in Pre- or Post-glacial beds. It frequents the Warm Temperate Zone, including Europe, Temperate Asia,
India, North Africa. It is more or less confined to cultivated areas, and so is absent from North Devon, Monmouth, occurring in South Wales only in Carmarthen, only in Montgomery.
Flint, and Denbigh in North Wales, throughout the Mersey district, but not in Mid Lanes. In Scotland it is confined to Kirkcudbright,
Ayr, Lanark, Berwick, Haddington, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, stretching from Perthshire to the South of England in general. It is found in Ireland around Dublin.
The Corn Buttercup is essentially a plant of the cultivated districts, being a regular denizen of the cornfield, in which it is, according to Watson, a colonist. It is a regular companion of Fool's Parsley, Alopecurus agrestis, Venus' Comb, and similar followers of the plough, and it may be found with them also around stackyards. Being a tall plant it is bound up with the wheat, and is held by the farmer to be a pest. But it has a pretty habit and bloom, and the prickly fruits are unique amongst English Crowfoots.
Photo. H. Irving - Corn buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis, L.)
It is an erect plant, rather rigid, branched, with small leaves, smooth, linear, lance-shaped, and rather stout stems, and pyramidal from below upwards in outline. It grows in scattered groups, and its outline and shape are naturally modified by the distribution of the corn amongst which it grows, the close and erect habit being due to its being elongated.
This plant is quite smooth with furrowed stems, much divided, and with lower leaves, with leaflets in threes, the upper linear, and the carpels are prickly and hooked, large, flattened, and few.
The flower is pale-yellow. The stamens vary in number as do the carpels, and the former are sometimes wanting.
The Corn Buttercup is 1 to 2 ft. high, flowering in June (and May). It is an annual.
Hidden amongst the corn this plant has little chance of being cross-pollinated by insects, though it has honey-glands at the base of the petals, which are pale-yellow, glossy, and open. The sepals are also sub-erect. The stamens are numerous (16), and the stigmas are reflexed, the stamens being brighter in colour than the petals.
The fruit is dispersed by animals. The achenes are provided with numerous hooked spines, which assist in distributing them by means of the wool of animals' coats, in which they may catch.
Corn Buttercup is distinctly a sand plant, growing on sandy soil derived from sandy formations which furnish a sandy loam.
No plant or insect pests are known to infest this plant, but it is regarded itself as a pest by the farmer.
The name arvensis means growing on arable land.
The English names are Yellow Crees, Corn Crowfoot, Corn or Urchin Crowfoot, Crows'-claws, Devil-on-both-sides, Devil's-claws, Devil's Coach-wheel, Devil's Currycomb, Dill-cup, English Stavesacre, Goldweed, Gye, Hard-iron, Hedge-hog, Hellweed, Horse Gold, Hungerweed, Jack-o'-both-sides, Joy, Peagle, Pricklebacks, Scratch-bur, Starveacre, Yellowcup.
It was called by the name Starveacre because it indicated poor land, as also did Hungerweed. The name Urchin Crowfoot refers to its prickly fruits, which also account for Devil-on-both-sides, Devil's-claws, Hedge-hog, Pricklebacks.
Some of the folk in olden days called it Devil-on-both-sides, because of its supposed association with the Evil One.
Essential Specific Characters: 9. Ranunculus arvensis, L. - Stem tall, leaves much divided, linear-lanceolate, calyx spreading, carpels beaked, spinous, nectary with a scale.