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Potentilla pulcherrima

Potentilla pulcherrima. Synonym: Potentilla gracilis variety pulcherrima. (Beautiful Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, July 6, 2004.

Potentilla pulcherrima often grows to nearly two feet long, commonly reclines (as in this photograph), and is the most common Potentilla species in high mountain meadows. The palmate leaf of this very common Potentilla quickly distinguishes the species from P. hippiana, which has pinnate leaves with leaflets in a ladder-like arrangement.

Linnaeus named this genus and Lehman named this species in 1830 from a specimen collected by Thomas Drummond in Canada, in about 1830. "Pulcherrima" is Latin for "very beautiful".

P. pulcherrima is quite similar to P. gracilis, and the two continue to be treated as one species, P. gracilis, in some floras, e.g., A Utah Flora and Flora Neomexicana III. However, all other floras in our area, the Flora of North America, and John Kartesz (the ultimate authority for plant names on this web site) treat these two as separate species. The FNA indicates, "Potentilla pulcherrima has often been treated as a variety of P. gracilis.... The current decision to treat P. pulcherrima as a species is in part because it has a monsoonal Rocky Mountain rather than a Pacific Northwest center of distribution." Floras which do not treat the two as separate species, treat P. pulcherrima as a variety of P. gracilis.

The key distinguishing characteristic between P. pulcherrima and P. gracilis is the dense hairiness on the underside of the leaves of P. pulcherrima versus the glabrous to sparsely hairy underside of the leaves of P. gracilis.

Potentilla pulcherrima
Potentilla pulcherrima. Synonym: Potentilla gracilis variety pulcherrima. (Beautiful Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, July 6, 2004.

Potentilla pulcherrima

Potentilla pulcherrima

Potentilla pulcherrima. Synonym: Potentilla gracilis variety pulcherrima. (Beautiful Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, July 6, 2004.
Navajo Lake Trail, September 9, 2004.

The silvery-haired backside, evenly toothed margins, and shiny green top-side of P. pulcherrima help identify it. The red runners in both photographs and the tri-foliate leaves in the bottom photograph, are those of Fragaria virginiana (Wild Strawberry).

Notice that these "cinque" ("five")-foil leaves actually have seven, not five, divisions. P. pulcherrima commonly has 5 to 9 leaflets.

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 pulcherrima

Range map for Potentilla pulcherrima