Turnera subulata: White buttercup

Family: Passifloraceae
Common name: White buttercup, White alder, Politician’s flower, Sulphur alder, Dark-eyed turnera, Sage rose, Yellow alder, Yellow buttercups

White buttercups are one of the most beautiful garden flowers with their creamy white petals that are yellow towards the base, with distinct black markings that act as nectar guides. These plants flower abundantly during spring and summer, and almost through the year in warm, tropical weather.

They can grow to a height of 60-80 cm with a woody base and bright green leaves. Leaves are 8-10 cm long with beautiful serrations long the edges. Leaves may or may not have thin white hairs on the lower surface. Venation is very prominent with sunken veins and a slightly raised leaf surface.

White buttercups plants can spread over a large area with branching stems that lean to the ground when they become longer. With sufficient water and sunlight, they bloom profusely covering the plant with beautiful, bright flowers that have 5 cream-colored, rounded petals.

The base of the petals are bright yellow with small black markings. Stamens and style are yellow in color and clearly visible.

The flowers exhibit polymorphism, producing two types of flowers that differ in the length of the styles. Thrum flowers have shorter styles, and Pin flowers have longer styles that extend above the stamens. Since the flowers cannot self-pollinate, this ensures that the flowers can cross-pollinate effectively, though both flowers produce similar amount of pollen.

These flowers with their bright coloring attract birds, bees, and insects to the garden thus helping in pollinating other plants as well. Once they are pollinated, the flowers produce small hairy fruits that contain seeds.

Though they are native to Central and South America, White buttercups are now seen in many countries with warm weather. They are garden favorites since the plants are quite sturdy and bloom well with very little care. The plants are very closely related to Turnera ulmifolia or Yellow alder plants.

In gardens, they can be grown as border or hedge plants, and also in hanging baskets, their long stems falling gracefully over the edge of pots or baskets. White buttercups need regular watering and fertilization to ensure that you have a healthy plant with beautiful flowers.

They are partially tolerant of drought, poor soil, and extreme weather conditions. Once the stems become long and leggy, they can be pruned to keep the plant bushy and small. White buttercups have some medicinal uses in traditional herbal medicine in the treatment of diabetes, hypertension, and inflammations.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.