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Potentilla glaucophylla

Potentilla glaucophylla

Potentilla glaucophylla

Potentilla glaucophylla

Potentilla glaucophylla. Synonym: Potentilla diversifolia. (Blueleaf Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Above and left: Near U.S. Basin, August 6, 2019.

Potentilla glaucophylla is common and often abundant, but because it is so similar to other Potentilla and to Geum rossii, it often goes unnoticed. The top photograph on this page shows the difficulty picking it out on alpine slopes that also have an abundance of Geum rossii.

Potentilla glaucophylla grows from two to sixteen inches tall, ten inches long as shown here. Leaves are mostly basal and quite reduced in size upward on the stem. The style is 1.4 to 2.3 mm long, about 2.5 as shown here and, as with all Potentillas, there are many pistils, about 20 as shown here.

Potentilla glaucophylla intergrades with P. gracillis.

This species was probably first collected for science by Thomas Drummond on the Franklin Expedition of 1825-1827. Drummond found it on the "Alpine Prairies, as well as on the higher summits of the Rocky Mountains between lat. 52 degrees and 56 degrees", i.e., in present day Canada. It was described by Johann Lehmann in 1830 but there is some confusion about the naming of this plant. In 1830 Lehmann first named the plant Potentilla diversifolia var. glaucophylla, but renamed it Potentilla glaucophylla in 1836. The Flora of North America, the Jepson Manual, The Flora of Colorado, and BONAP accept the 1836 P. glaucophylla. A Utah Flora and Colorado Flora accept the 1830 P. diversifolia.

The Flora of North America adds this information:


Potentilla glaucophylla replaces P. diversifolia; an examination of the lectotype of the latter confirms J. Soják’s (1996) conclusion that P. diversifolia applies to a hybrid involving P. glaucophylla and P. hippiana. Historically, this species was often termed P. dissecta Pursh, a misapplied name that has been rejected (B. Ertter et al. 2008).

In addition to the nomenclatural change, the circumscription of Potentilla glaucophylla is here restricted to plants with usually glaucous, blue-green, distally toothed leaflets that are usually glabrate (at least in var. glaucophylla). Plants from the Colorado Plateau and southern Rocky Mountains formerly included in this species and having dark green leaves, more leaflet teeth, and larger anthers are transferred either to P. townsendii or to a currently undescribed entity.

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Potentilla glaucophylla

Potentilla glaucophylla. Synonym: Potentilla diversifolia. (Blueleaf Cinquefoil)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Near U.S. Basin, August 6, 2019.

The very common, but not always present, blue-green (glaucous) coloring is a key to identifying this species. Also note that the leaves are distally (toward the tip) toothed, and, as noted above, almost all leaves are basal and those on the stems are few and greatly reduced in size. Venation is prominent.

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 glaucophylla

Range map for Potentilla glaucophylla