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Buttercup plants / Ranunculaceae

The Buttercups, Ranunculaceae, are characterized by the diversity of their leaves. The range here extends from long-stemmed leaves with a closed, roundish blade to leaves with variously divided  blades to sessile, narrow, pointed leaf shapes.

Species-typical leaves of various buttercups

However, not only do very different leaf shapes occur in the entire family from species to species, but the individual species also generally show a pronounced metamorphosis from the leaf closest to the root to the leaf closest to the flower. The Buttercupa  are therefore particularly suitable for studying leaf metamorphoses.

This was also the reason for Thomas Göbel (1928 – 2006), the co-founder of the Carl Gustav Carus Institut, to study the Ranunculaceae. In comparison with their abundance of leaf metamorphoses, it can be shown very impressively how reduced Viscum album, the white-berried mistletoe, is in the formation of its leaves. Mainly the European genera were for many years a field of research in the Biological Department of the Carus-Institut. In addition to the structure of the whole plant, the structure of the inflorescence with the transition from the leaf to the flower, the structure of the individual flower and the fruit as well as the connection between the habitat and the leaf shapes, the metamorphosis of the leaves within this family was studied in detail. Thomas Göbel described the genera Clematis and Aconitum as poles of the family, between which the other European genera could be classified as mediating metamorphic steps.

As a basis for this work, numerous rows of leaves were created, which ideally illustrate all the foliage of a plant from germination to flowering. As an example, here you can see the series of Aconitum lamarckii, the yellow monkshood, wolfsbane (common names).

Leaf row Aconitum lamarckii, yellow monkshood

In total, the Carl Gustav Carus-Institut has leaf series of 42 Ranunculaceae species. All 23 genera occurring in Europe are represented by at least one species each. From the largest genus, Ranunculus, with more than 600 species, several species, including non-European species, were studied in order to illustrate the broad spectrum of leaf shapes within this genus. In addition, two non-European genera, Garidella and Komaroffia, were included, which together with Nigella are at the transition from the radial-flowered genera to those with zygomorphic flowers.

Publications produced in connection with this buttercup project are listed below. There you will also find a list of our already published leaf series as well as a list of all species available to us as leaf series.

The leaf series can be made available to interested experts for research purposes. Please send requests by e-mail to Ms Angelika Heinze (angelika.heinze@carus-institut.de).

Thanks to

We would like to thank the staff of the following botanical gardens for the always kindly answering our inquiries as well as for sending us the requested seeds and plants: Berlin-Dahlem, Bochum, Bonn, Gießen, Göttingen, Stuttgart-Hohenheim, Kiel, Cologne, Krakow, Mainz, Marburg, München-Nymphenburg, Tübingen, Vienna.

Publications produced in connection with the Buttercup project:

Göbel, Thomas

1998: Zwei Waldreben, das Buschwindröschen, die Kuhschelle und die Evolution der Blütenpflanzen. Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus 1998:193 – 238, Niefern-Öschelbronn

2002: Zur evolutiven Ausbildung von Blüte und Frucht bei den Hahnenfußgewächsen. Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus 2002: 77 – 142, Niefern-Öschelbronn

2005: Über das Verhalten des Blattgrundes an blütennahen Laubblättern der Gattungen Ranunculus und Adonis. Tycho de Brahe-Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus 2005: 71 – 78, Niefern-Öschelbronn

2014: Zu den europäischen Arten der Ranunculaceen-Gattung Clematis L., Waldrebe. Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus 2014: 43 – 69, Niefern-Öschelbronn

Heinze, Angelika

1991: Zu den Keimpflanzen der Gemeinen Waldrebe (Clematis vitalba L.) und der Berberitze (Berberis vulgaris L.). Tycho de Brahe-Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus 1991: 112 – 120, Niefern-Öschelbronn

1998: Die »Jungfer im Grünen« und ihre Verwandten. Zur Metamorphose der Ranunculaceen-Gattungen Komaroffia, Nigella und Garidella. Tycho de Brahe-Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus 1998: 162 – 191, Niefern-Öschelbronn

2000: Vom Zusammenhang der Zygomorphie mit der Nektarblattverinnerlichung bei den Hahnenfußgewächsen (Ranunculaceae). Tycho de Brahe-Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus 2000: 7 – 16, Niefern-Öschelbronn

2010: Ranunculus lingua L., der Zungen-Hahnenfuß. Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus 2010: 41 – 60, Niefern-Öschelbronn

2017: Zur morphologischen Grundlagenforschung am Carl Gustav Carus-Institut, Öschelbronner Akzente 2017/2018, S. 14 – 21, Hrsg. Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Krebstherapie, Niefern-Öschelbronn

Suchantke, Andreas

2009: Gestaltmotive in der Gattung Ranunculus. Tycho de Brahe-Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus 2009: 83 – 112, Niefern-Öschelbronn


Published Ranunculaceae leaf series:

Aconitum lamarckii, Blätter der Hauptachse, 2 Jahrgänge, Göbel 1998, S.220/21

Adonis annua, sämtliche Laubblätter, Göbel 2005, S.76/77

Anemone nemorosa, Blätter des Involukrums, Göbel 1998, S.220

Caltha palustris, Blätter eines generativen Triebes, Heinze 2010, S.45

Clematis integrifolia, Blätter der Hauptachse, 1. Jahrgang, Göbel 2014, S.56/57

Clematis vitalba, die ersten 11 Laubblätter, Heinze 1991, S.115, Göbel 2014, S.47

Garidella nigellastrum, sämtliche Laubblätter, Heinze 1998, S.186

Helleborus foetidus, Blätter im Übergang von Laub- zu Kronblättern, Göbel 1998, S.197

Komaroffia integrifolia, sämtliche Laubblätter, Heinze 1998, S.184/85

Nigella damascena, Blätter der Hauptachse, Heinze 1998, S.184/85

Pulsatilla vulgaris, Blätter der Hauptachse, Göbel 1998, S.222/23

Pulsatilla vulgaris, Blätter des Involukrums, Göbel 1998, S.224

Ranunculus auricomus, Blätter eines generativen Triebes, Göbel 2005, S.75

Ranunculus bulbosus, Blätter der Hauptachse, Göbel 2005, S.72/73 Abb.1

Ranunculus bulbosus, Blätter der Hauptachse, Göbel 2005, S.72/73 Abb.2

Ranunculus bulbosus, 2 Hauptachsenblätter mit den Blättern ihrer Seitentriebe, Göbel 2005, S.74

Ranunculus lingua, Blätter eines generativen Triebes, Heinze 2010, S.46

Ranunculus lingua, Blätter des 1. Jahrgangs, Heinze 2010, S.48/49

Ranunculus lingua, Keim- und Primärblätter, Heinze 2010, S.50, Abb. 10 oben

Ranunculus lingua, 3 Winterblätter, Heinze 2010, S.51


Ranunculaceae species available as leaf rows:

Aconitum lamarckii Rchb.

Actaea spicata L.

Adonis annua L.

Anemone nemorosa L.

Anemone sylvestris L.

Aquilegia atrata Koch

Callianthemum anemonoides (Zahlbr.) Heynh.

Caltha palustris L.

Ceratocephala falcata (L.) Pers.

Cimicifuga europaea Schipcz.

Clematis alpina (L.) Mill.

Clematis integrifolia L.

Clematis vitalba L.

Consolida regalis S. F. Gray

Delphinium elatum L.

Delphinium staphisagria L.

Eranthis hyemalis (L.) Salisb.

Garidella nigellastrum L.

Helleborus foetidus L.

Hepatica nobilis Schreber

Isopyrum thalictroides L.

Komaroffia integrifolia (Regel) A. L. Pereira

Myosurus minimus L.

Nigella ciliaris DC.

Nigella damascena L.

Nigella hispanica L.

Pulsatilla vulgaris Miller

Ranunculus acris L.

Ranunculus arvensis L.

Ranunculus auricomus L.

Ranunculus bulbosus L.

Ranunculus ficaria L.

Ranunculus flammula L.

Ranunculus gramineus L.

Ranunculus illyricus L.

Ranunculus lanuginosus L.

Ranunculus lingua L.

Ranunculus muricatus L.

Ranunculus platanifolius L.

Thalictrum aquilegiifolium L.

Thalictrum lucidum L.

Trollius europaeus L.


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