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

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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.

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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.

    Like

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