Ranunculus auricomus group
- Family: Buttercup Family – Ranunculaceae
- Growing form: Perennial herb.
- Height: 30–50 cm (12–20 in.). Stems 1–5, erect, usually branched, glabrous–slightly hairy. Base with no bladeless leaf-sheaths
- Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), yellow, usually 10–20 mm (0.4–0.8 in.) wide; petals usually 5, usually longer than sepals, often partially developed, different sizes. Sepals 5, hairy. Receptacle 2–9 mm (0.08–0.36 in.) long, glabrous–hairy. Stamens many. Gynoecium separate, with many pistils. Inflorescence a lax cyme, flower-stalks shiny.
- Leaves: Alternate, basal leaves 1–10, long-stalked, stem leaves almost stalkless. Basal leaf blades kidney-shaped–roundish, usually glabrous, cordate-based, 3–5-lobed, lobes further lobed–toothed. Stem leaf blades lobed until base, lobes narrowly linear, with entire margins (sometimes irregularly toothed).
- Fruit: Densely haired achene, tip usually with 0.4–1.8 mm (0.016–0.072 in.) long bristle. Achenes in clusters.
- Habitat: Damp and rich meadows, field banks, broad-leaved forests, deciduous forest, waterside broad-leaved forests and alder thickets, parks, banks, pastures, shores.
- Flowering time: May–June.
Goldilocks is a common name for a whole group of buttercups. They often begin to flower already at the end of April and their flowering time peaks at the turn of May and June. The corolla is often malformed: it is normal to find flowers with only two or three petals with the rest more or less vestigial – and sometimes the flower doesn’t seem to open at all. The plant’s inflorescence is clearly more modest than meadow buttercup (R. acris), which flowers a couple of weeks later.
Although insects spread goldilocks’ pollen from one flower to another, it is unable to be pollinated. The seed develops apomictically from an unfertilized egg cell, so the descendant is exactly the same as the parent plant. Every mutation and variation in the parent plant is passed on, which has produced an abundance of microspecies that differ only slightly from each other, and the differences remain. Many microspecies only grow in small areas, and other goldilocks that grow there can look quite different. Goldilocks is a common name for a very diverse group, of which at least 200 and even up to 300 microspecies grow in Finland.
Apomictic goldilocks is a real challenge for taxonomists and botanists alike. It is usually enough to identify the groups that hundreds of microspecies belong to. Goldilocks’ basal leaf blades are generally kidney-shaped but lobed, and the stem leaves are narrow-lobed. The basal leaf blades of the R. cassubicus group are lobeless, the R. fallax group and R. monophyllos group are in between, with the latter more delicate than the former.