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   Potentillas (commonly called "Cinquefoils") are abundant through many vegetative zones in the mountains of the Four Corners area, and their bright yellow flowers are a common sight to hikers. But because Potentilla hybridize, they are often difficult to identify to exact species.

    Linnaeus named the Potentilla genus in 1753.  "Potentilla" is derived from the Latin "potentia" meaning "power", for some members of the genus were believed to have potent curative powers. 

    Since the word "potentilla" is of Latin, not Spanish origin, the "ll" is pronounced as the English double "ll", as in "till", not as the Spanish double "ll", as in "Vallecito" or "Castilleja".

    The Latin "illa" suffix is a diminutive and thus denotes "a little amount", so the plant was thought to be "a little bit potent".  

     "Cinquefoil" is from the Latin "quinque" (five) and "folium" (leaf) for the five-parted leaflet, which, however, is not always five-parted.

    See Potentilla pensylvanica and P. plattensis, Potentilla rubricaulis, and Drymocallis arguta.

Potentilla concinna

                    Potentilla concinna

Potentilla concinna. Synonym: Potentilla concinna variety bicrenata, Potentilla bicrenata. (Elegant Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Foothills to alpine. Openings, woodlands. Summer.
Above and left: Sharkstooth Trail, June 28, 2007.

The Potentilla concinna in the photographs at left and above is growing at 11,000 feet in rocky terrain, but the species also grows in pines of the foothills and mountains, as shown in the photographs below.  At 11,000 feet the plant occurs in small tufts to seven inches across and three inches high.  It is a bit larger at lower elevations.

(The leaves and flower bud in the lower left of the photograph above belong to Packera werneriifolia.)

As the photograph at left shows, leaflets often curl, are commonly densely hairy on the back and darker green and sparsely hairy on top, and are variably toothed or notched along most of their sides or on the tip.

Richardson named the species P. concinna in 1823 from a specimen he collected "on the plains of the Saskatchawan" on the Franklin Expedition of 1819-1821.  Per Axel Rydberg named the species P. bicrenata in 1896 from a specimen collected by C. D. Walcott in New Mexico in 1883.  The designation "Potentilla concinna variety bicrenata" was given by Welsh and Johnston in 1982 but John Kartesz, the ultimate authority for scientific names on this web site, accepts the name "P. concinna".  

"Concinna" is Latin for "neat, elegant". "Bicrenata" means "twice notched".

Potentilla concinna
Potentilla concinna. Synonym: Potentilla concinna variety bicrenata, Potentilla bicrenata. (Elegant Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Foothills, montane, sub-alpine. Openings, woodlands. Spring to early summer.
Robertson Pasture Trail, Abajo Mountains, Utah, June 12, 2009.

Potentilla concinna grows in all the Four Corners states and northward into Canada.  It is a tiny plant with leaf stems from only one to four inches long, leaflets to a bit more than an inch long and no more than 1/3 inch wide, and flower petals up to 1/4 inch long.  The plant begins blooming in early spring before its leaves are mature. 

The photographs at left and below show P. concinna at the end of its blooming period at about 8,500 feet elevation.

Potentilla concinna

Potentilla concinna. Synonym: Potentilla concinna variety bicrenata, Potentilla bicrenata. (Elegant Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Foothills to alpine. Openings, woodlands. Spring to early summer.
Robertson Pasture Trail, Abajo Mountains, Utah, June 12, 2009.

Potentilla concinna

Potentilla concinna. Synonym: Potentilla concinna variety bicrenata, Potentilla bicrenata.(Elegant Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Foothills to alpine. Openings, woodlands. Spring to early summer.
Robertson Pasture Trail, Abajo Mountains, Utah, June 12, 2009.

 

Potentilla nivea

Potentilla nivea (Snow Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Near Jura Knob, July 19, 2013.

Potentilla nivea is most often a distinctive sage-green, but as shown near the right side of the above photograph, the color can be a brighter green.

Potentilla nivea

Potentilla nivea (Snow Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Near Jura Knob, July 19, 2013.

Potentilla nivea is distinctive in its low, matted form; three-parted serrated, very hairy leaves; hairy stems; and alpine habitat.

Potentilla nivea was named by Linnaeus in 1753 from a collection made in Siberia. Sereno Watson collected Potentilla nivea in Utah in 1869. "Nivea" is Latin for "snow".

Potentilla nivea

Potentilla nivea

Potentilla nivea (Snow Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Near Jura Knob, July 19, 2013.

Leaves are silky hairy on top and densely, snow-white hairy below.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Potentilla concinna

Potentilla nivea

Range map for Potentilla nivea