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     Potentillas (commonly called "Cinquefoils") are abundant through many vegetative zones in the San Juans and other mountains of the Four Corners area and their bright yellow flowers are a common sight to hikers.  Their are several dozen species of Potentilla in the Four Corners area; they hybridize and are difficult to distinguish.

    Linnaeus named the genus in 1753.  "Potentilla" is derived from "potent", as some members of the genus were believed to have potent curative powers.  "Cinquefoil" is from the Latin "quinque" (five) and "folium" (leaf) for the five-parted leaflet.  

    See also Potentilla hippiana, Potentilla rubricaulis, and Drymocallis arguta.

Potentilla pensylvanica
Potentilla pensylvanica variety pensylvanica (Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Foothills to subalpine. Meadows, rocky knolls. Summer.
Prairie Dog Knoll, Abajo Mountains, Utah, July 10, 2007.

Potentilla pensylvanica, a highly variable species, is uncommon in the Four Corners area.  There is disagreement on a number of its characteristics and on its habitat.  Depending on which authority one looks at, the plant is said to grow from two to twenty inches tall.  It can be decumbent or erect, glandular or not, coarsely toothed to narrowly lobed, etc.  There is not even agreement on what elevations it is found at: Intermountain Flora states that it grows at subalpine and alpine elevations; Utah Flora has it from Sagebrush to upper montane; and Weber has it from "moist bottomlands to ... alpine ridges".  The photos show it at 10,000 feet on a rocky, treeless knoll.  Leaves are mostly basal and flowers are small, clustered, and yellow.  It is a handsome plant no matter how confused botanists are by it.

Linnaeus named the species in 1767 from a specimen collected in Canada.  The plant is not found in Pennsylvania.  Perhaps the name is from the Latin, "pen" ("nearly") and "sylvan" ("woods").

Potentilla pensylvanica
Potentilla pensylvanica variety pensylvanica (Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Foothills to subalpine. Meadows, rocky knolls. Summer.
Prairie Dog Knoll, Abajo Mountains, Utah, July 10, 2007.

Potentilla pensylvanica
Potentilla pensylvanica variety pensylvanica (Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Foothills to subalpine. Meadows, rocky knolls. Summer.
Prairie Dog Knoll, Abajo Mountains, Utah, August 17, 2009.

Seed heads have their own beauty.

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 pensylvanica