Potentilla recta – A Pernicious Weed

For my outdoor gardening friends, (from this point forward I shall refer to you as my fellow Dirt People), I thought maybe learning about the weeds in our area would be very helpful.

Maybe you are wondering why you would want to identify weeds that show up in your gardens. It is my firm belief that knowing how a plant (weed) spreads can be extremely valuable when preparing a new planting site or when maintaining flowerbeds or gardens. Also, being able to refer to a weed by its common name or its botanical name can help you have meaningful and uncomplicated discussions with other gardeners regarding weed control. Knowing the toxicity of a weed is paramount to the safety of our families and beloved pets. And in the U.S., we have many weeds that are very poisonous to humans and pets.

I encountered the Sulfur cinquefoil for the first time last year in a vineyard. As a farmer, I generally see the same few types of weeds repeated throughout the areas where I work. So I identified the Sulfur immediately as a stranger and stopped to study the plant. The leaf shape is very distinct; they look like tiny, very hairy palm leaves.

The leaves and stems of the Sulfur cinquefoil are covered with light colored hairs.

I did my best to find the name of the plant online, but failed miserably. My friend, Angela, is the one who identified this plant for me. It was an extremely difficult task to correctly identify this plant since there are so many cinquefoils found across the United States. Although there are many native cinquefoils in the U.S. this cinquefoil is not endemic, but was accidentally introduced to the United States in the early 19th century. Angela was able to identify this particular Potentilla by the hairs that stand out from the stems at 90 degree angles.

The Sulfur cinquefoil blooms from early May through July. The blooms are a soft buttery yellow and look similar to strawberry blooms. Each bloom has five heart-shaped petals. But watch out, if you see blooms then seed heads are not far behind. And the seed production of these plants is prolific.

Every bloom on the Potentilla recta has five soft yellow petals, shaped like hearts.

The flowers of the Potentilla recta, once pollinated, will become seed pods (see photo below) which can explode its tiny seeds into the air.

Seed pods have formed on this Sulfur cinquefoil.

The wind will carry the seeds a relatively short distance, but seeds will be carried long-distance by animal fur, clothing and vehicles. This Potentilla can take over established fields, agricultural areas, roadsides, pastures and basically any location that isn’t full shade. It is an aggressive grower and can completely displace native and non-native plants, thus it is a noxious weed.

On the bright side, this plant is not poisonous to humans or pets. It reportedly has a high tannin content which gives it a bitter flavor, but is not harmful if ingested.

Make sure to comment below if you’ve encountered this pernicious weed too.

Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.

References for this article:

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2021). Potentilla recta. https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=368252&isprofile=0&

National Park Service. (2016, June 28). Exotic Species: Sulfur Cinquefoil. https://www.nps.gov/articles/sulfur-cinquefoil.htm

Social Media

Instagram  @liquidambar_girl

Facebook  Liquidambar Girl Gardening

For Mercy, Peace, Love merchandise click here

Products I use and (therefore) recommend:

Planty friends – Feel free to use these links to the products that I use for my houseplants.  I receive a small percentage of any sales through these links, so feel free not to use them if that bothers you.

Horticultural 1/4” pumice – https://amzn.to/2KfcNPT

Horticultural perlite – https://amzn.to/3f9wwvE

Coco coir – https://amzn.to/2UBBiZF

Orchid Bark – Extra small chips – https://amzn.to/38OXWWJ

Orchid Bark – Small chips – https://amzn.to/3kA8HOU

Earthworm castings – https://amzn.to/38TRkGw

Coco Loco potting mix – https://amzn.to/2UHV3OY

GE Balanced Spectrum grow light bulb – https://amzn.to/3fdeAAu

Monios L LED grow lights – 2 ft. – https://amzn.to/391NmeS

Heat Mat (for propagating) – https://amzn.to/2MSezbk

Heat Mat w/ Thermostat – https://amzn.to/2PIjCwc

Bonsai scissors – https://amzn.to/33a6F29

Hygrometer (humidity monitor) – https://amzn.to/32WtiqO

Moisture meter sticks – https://amzn.to/35FR7Vk

Horticultural charcoal – https://amzn.to/2UKOv25

Organic houseplant fertilizer liquid – https://amzn.to/3pIb7ij

Insecticide/Miticide – (many bug sprays don’t kill spider mites, this one does) – https://amzn.to/3pHKREw

Systemic houseplant insecticide – https://amzn.to/36MuoX8

Espoma Rose Tone (fertilizer for roses and flowering perennials) – https://amzn.to/3m8OGkU

Full disclosure – the last four product links will be much cheaper if you can find them in your local garden center.  I’ve put them here so that you can see what they are called and what they look like, but I’d advise that you buy from these links only as a last resort.

One thought on “Potentilla recta – A Pernicious Weed

  1. I don’t believe I have seen this weednin my yard but I am always fighting a battle with Canadian thistle, it’s everywhere. I pull and spray but it keeps coming back and my mistake was to mulch and notay down some kind of weed barrier so now I have double work to do but not sure if I should wait till fall now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: