Until I read this article the other week over on The Mainichi I never realised that butterburs — as in Barliman Butterbur — were a type of flower.

Specifically, it’s the name for some members of the Petasites genus of flowering plants in the sunflower family.

An excerpt:

We especially look forward to gathering our first butterburs, “fuki no to” in Japanese. The yellowish green buds push up through boggy or wet ground very soon after the snow goes. They contain a little ball of tiny yellow flowers, protected by a sheath of sepals. Flowers grow before the long stem, which is also edible, and the big green leaves. Here in Nagano the butterbur leaves (also called coltsfoot in English, because of their shape) are about as big as a dinner plate, but in Hokkaido they can be huge, big enough in summer to use as an umbrella.)

I’d known that Tolkien often named Hobbits after different species of flower (Primrose Brandybuck immediately comes to mind), but not that this extended to the Big People of Bree. One wonders — perhaps Bill Ferny is also a nod to vegetation everywhere.

Read the rest of the article here.