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rough-fruited cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)




















roughfruit cinquefoil
rough-fruited cinquefoil
sulfur cinquefoil
erect cinquefoil


Potentilla recta L. var. obscura (Nestler) W.D.J. Koch
Potentilla recta L. var. pilosa (Willd.) Ledeb.
Potentilla recta L. var. sulphurea (Lam. & DC.) Peyr.


CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.


TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for rough-fruited
cinquefoil is Potentilla recta L.


NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.




Habit: This perennial, long-lived plant (plants have been reported to live

up to 20-30 years) rises on 1 to 3 stems (sometimes more) from a thick

caudex and is 1¼–2½' tall, branching frequently in the upper third of the

plant, unbranched below the inflorescence, and covered with both gland-

ular and non-glandular hairs. In fact, the entire above-ground portion of

the plant is covered with shiny, erect hairs that emerge at right angles

from the plant. It is erect in habit, stout, and sprawling or stoloniferous.

The stems are terete and covered with long white hairs.


Leaves: The alternate leaves are palmately compound. The lower leaves

have long hairy petioles (up to 4 in. long) and 5-7 (rarely 9) leaflets, while

the upper leaves are nearly sessile, smaller in size, and often have 3 leaf-

lets. Each leaflet is up to 3½" long and ¾" across; the middle leaflets are

larger in size than the side leaflets. Each leaflet is oblanceolate to elliptic, narrowly inversely egg-shaped with the attachment at the narrow end, and

coarsely toothed around the entire margin, including near the base. The

upper surface is green and is covered with short, soft hairs. The lower sur-

face is pale green and is covered with long, soft or stiff hairs.


Flowers: The upper stems terminate in flat-topped clusters of flowers.

Each flower is about ½-¾" across, consisting of 5 pale yellow petals, 5

hairy green sepals, about 30 stamens with yellowish anthers, and a bright

yellow receptacle in the middle with numerous pistils. The spreading pet-

als are inversely heart-shaped, broadest at the tip with two rounded lobes

separated by a broad notch, and tapering to a narrow, wedge-shaped base,

while the triangular sepals are a little shorter than the petals and alternate

with the petals. The 5 bractlets are dark green and about as long as the

sepals when the flower is fully open. They alternate with the sepals and

are hidden below the petals when the flower is viewed from above. There

are 20 to 30 yellow stamens with brown and yellow anthers. There is no

floral scent. The inflorescence is a flattened, branched cluster of many

flowers at the end of the stem.


Fruit/Seeds: Each flower produces numerous dark brown comma-shaped

achenes, 1-2 mm long, which are somewhat flattened and finely ridged

giving the seed coat a net-like pattern.


Roots: The root system of a mature plant consists of a shallow crown with

coarse fibrous roots (but no rhizomes); sometimes multiple stems develop

from the crown. It can form large clumps.


REGENERATION PROCESS: Rough-fruited cinquefoil propogates it-

self by reseeding and vegetatively by sprouting from a caudex.


HABITAT TYPES: Rough-fruited cinquefoil populations in North Amer-

ica are commonly associated with roadsides, vegetation disturbance, aban-

doned agricultural fields, and "waste areas". Rough-fruited cinquefoil can

also invade native plant communities and is now common in natural grass-

lands, "shrubby areas," and occasionally in wood margins, (although gen-

erally not under forest canopies) and sometimes found invading dry, open

woods. Disturbed sites are particularly susceptible to early colonization

and rapid dominance by rough-fruited cinquefoil. Disturbed areas are

typically described as "weedy areas," "waste places," roadsides, railroads, clearings, pastures, old fields, and gravel pits.


SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Little information is available regarding

site characteristics that are suitable to rough-fruited cinquefoil's establish-

ment and persistence. It apparently has a wide ecological amplitude, occur-

ring in a wide range of habitat types, soil textures, aspects, and elevations.

It seems to prefer full to paratial sunlight. Rough-fruited cinquefoil occurs

on rocky, sandy-clay loam soils (with dense growth reported on clay soils),

seasonal wetland sites that had coarse textured, cobbly soils. Rough-fruited
cinquefoil is usually found in dry soil in the northeastern U.S., and along

the eastern coast from Newfoundland to North Carolina, it is most common

on limey and stony soils in eastern North America.


SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period usually occurs

from midspring to late-summer (April to September), although there is a

considerable range of blooming dates depending on location. Blooming

lasts about a month.


GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Rough-fruited cinquefoil is found through-
out most of the United States (is has not yet been reported from the far
southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah), and is found in

all the Canadian provinces except the far northern.




IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract
Halictid bees, masked bees (Hylaeus spp.), Andrenid bees, Syrphid flies,
and small butterflies. Two aphids, Chaitosiphon fragaefolii and Macrosi-
phum pseudorosae, suck sap from Potentilla spp. (Cinquefoil species),
while the larvae of a moth, Tinagma obscurofasciella, are leaf-miners.
Some grasshoppers, such as Melanoplus borealis (northern grasshopper),
feed on the foliage. Among vertebrate animals, rabbits occasionally browse
the lower leaves of this plant, but it is not a preferred food source. Cattle
and other livestock also browse on the foliage; however, it is not good for-

age due to its high tannin content. Elk and deer have been observed brows-

ing rough-fruited cinquefoil. There is some evidence that the seeds of this

and other Cinquefoil species can pass through the digestive tract of live-

stock and remain viable. Thus, these animals may facilitate their distribu-

tion into new areas.


There are no reported uses for rough-fruited beyond use as an ornamental
plant for gardens.



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