Ranunculus fallax group
- Latin synonym: Ranunculus auricomus var. fallax
- Family: Buttercup Family – Ranunculaceae
- Growing form: Perennial herb.
- Height: 20–70 cm (8–28 in.). Stems 1–3, stem branched 2–5 times. Bladeless at base of stem, scale-like sheath, withering early.
- Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), golden yellow, 15–25 mm (0.6–1 in.) broad; petals usually 5, usually longer than sepals, some often only partly developed, different sizes. Sepals 5. Receptacle 4–9 mm (0.16–0.36 in.) long, most often quite abundantly hairy. Stamens many. Pistil with separate leaves, a few pistils. Inflorescence lax, cyme-like, many-flowered, flower-stalk glossy.
- Leaves: Alternate, basal leaves 2–5, long-stalked, stem-leaves almost stalkless. Basal leaf blades kidney-shaped–roundish, normally sparsely haired, cordate-based, 3-lobed or sometimes entire, lobes broad, large-toothed–shallowly lobed. Stem leaf blades lobed until base, lobes linearly lanceolate–narrowly obovate, especially side with tip often irregularly large-toothed–lobed.
- Fruit: Densely haired achene, tip with 0.6–1.7 mm (0.024–0.068 in.) long bristle. Achenes often together.
- Habitat: Broad-leaved forests, coppices, rich mixed swamps, grey alder groves, parks.
- Flowering time: May–June.
At the beginning of summer there are plants that grow on the edges of forests, in parks and in broad-leaved forests that look like goldilocks. Even many people who know a lot about plants are content to classify them as such without thinking any more about it, and they have been even been classed in this group within botanical circles. Ranunculus fallax plants warrant closer inspection, however, because this is one of the most diverse species groups within the large group of apomictically reproducing members of the Buttercup family.
Apomictic Buttercup family members are able to produce seeds without being fertilised. Apomixis does not allow for the re-organization of hereditary factors, so every plant is a direct copy of the mother plant. Every apomictic Buttercup line is independent and separate, a so-called micro-species, of which 400 are known to exist in Finland. This number only grows bigger every year, so there is enough to keep botanists busy for a lifetime. Identifying hundreds of micro-species that only differ minutely from one another is a botanist’s nightmare and for most it is enough to divide the enormous list into four groups or species. Ranunculus fallax is one of these groups, and it contains close to 100 species. The Ranunculus fallax group is intermediary between the goldilocks (R. auricomus) and Kashubian buttercup (R. cassubicus) groups with regards to appearance, habitat requirements and flowering time. Ranunculus fallax plants grow in the southern half of Finland in broad-leaved forests and other rich places, while further north its place is taken by the R. monophyllos group. Ranunculus fallax flowers early in the spring and is even difficult to spot by the middle of summer as its petals have already fallen.