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Potentilla gracilis

Potentilla gracilis

Potentilla gracilis (Slender Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Upper Calico Trail, July 31, 2013.

The palmate leaf of this uncommon Potentilla might at first lead us to thinking the plant is the very common Potentilla pulcherrima, but as the photograph at left hints and the photographs below make certain, the leaves are not silvery-hairy on the back. The leaves of P. pulcherrima are distinctively dark green on top and silvery from hairs below.

Potentilla gracilis is found in high mountain and subalpine meadows and forest openings in scattered groupings. The bright yellow flowers easily gain our attention, but it takes a close look to be sure that this is P. gracilis, not P. pulcherrima for the two are very similar. Flowering stems in both species can be upright or reclining.

Linnaeus named this genus. This species has endured many names and has often been confused with or combined with P. pulcherrima. Stanley Welsh, author of A Utah Flora, indicates that P. gracilis is divided into five varieties, one of which is P. gracilis var. pulcherrima.

David Douglas collected seeds from plants "on the banks of the Columbia and the plains of the Multnomah rivers" and these seeds were then grown in England. Douglas named the plant Potentilla gracilis in 1830. "Gracilis" is Latin for "slender".

Potentilla gracilis
Potentilla gracilis (Slender Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Upper Calico Trail, July 31, 2013.

Potentilla gracilis

Potentilla gracilis (Slender Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Upper Calico Trail, July 31, 2013.

Botanical keys help separate species of Potentilla by asking about the length and shape of the styles: the styles can be "less than 1.2 millimeters long, often thickened and glandular-roughened at their base" OR they can be "1.2 millimeters or often much longer, slender, scarcely tapering to a thickened base" (Weber's words).

The photograph at left shows the long and narrow styles of P. gracilis, surrounded by the stamens.

Potentilla gracilis

Potentilla gracilis

Potentilla gracilis

Potentilla gracilis (Slender Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Upper Calico Trail, July 31, 2013.

The underside of the leaves is about the same hairiness and color as the top side. The leaves may be nearly glabrous (as shown in the top two photographs at left) or have hairy surfaces (as the bottom photograph shows). Small tufts of hair are often found on the leaflet tips.

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

Potentilla gracilis

Range map for Potentilla gracilis