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Multiflowered Buttercup

Ranunculus polyanthemos

  • Family: Buttercup Family – Ranunculaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 20–80 cm (8–32 in.). Stem erect, with thick base, abundantly branched, usually lower part hairy.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), golden or sometimes pale yellow, shiny, 20–30 mm (0.8–1.2 in.) wide; petals 5, longer than sepals. Sepals 5, spreading, with spreading hairs. Receptacle hairy. Stamens many. Gynoecium separate, with many pistils. Inflorescence a lax cyme, flower-stalks grooved.
  • Leaves: Alternate, basal leaves 3–8, long-stalked, stem leaves few, (almost) stalkless. Basal leaf blades roundish, at least on one side hairy, with 3–5 leaflets, central leaflet stalkless–short-stalked, leaflets deeply narrow-lobed, with tapered teeth; sometimes blade only 3-lobed, lobes wide, toothed. Stem leaves narrow-lobed.
  • Fruit: Elliptic, 3–4 mm (0.12–0.16 in.) long achene, tip 0.5(–1) mm (0.02(–0.04 in.) long, oblique bristle. Achenes often together.
  • Habitat: Dry meadows, meadows, dry meadows, coppices, forest margins, open forests, banks.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Multiflowered buttercup is one of Finland’s most beautiful buttercups, a worthy bearer of the scientific name polyanthemos, meaning ’many-flowered’. It arrived in Finland a long, long time ago with people. The species’ roots lie in Eastern Europe’s forest steppes, and also in Finland it can be found in dryish meadows and forest margins in the south of the country. Multiflowered buttercup is quite demanding and is even more choosy than meadow buttercup (R. acris). It demands coarse and well drained soil which is preferably calciferous, and it doesn’t like acid soils that are rich in clay or peat. In the days of burn-beat agriculture the species was happy to grow in a suitably warm and open clearing, but changes in agricultural practices have led to many favoured spots becoming overgrown and the species has become rarer.

As a species that likes dry habitats, multiflowered buttercup produces a lot of seed as it does not propagate itself vegetatively like its close relative creeping buttercup (R. repens). Multiflowered buttercup’s seeds do not sprout until the autumn a year after they ripened, so it often loses out to other plants in the competition for new habitats. In pastures however, it has as a secret weapon: like many other buttercups it is poisonous and tastes bad because of the alkaloids it contains. Cattle do not touch it unless there is nothing else to eat, so it can grow in peace even on grazing land. The poison and bitter taste disappears from dried stems, so hay can easily be made from meadows where multiflowered buttercup grows.

Multiflowered buttercup can cross-breed with other buttercups such as meadow buttercup and apomictically with goldilocks species (R. auricomus). Their flower stalks are however shiny, unlike multiflowered buttercup’s, and there are also differences in the leaves.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family

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