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Alpine Cinquefoil

Potentilla crantzii

  • Family: Rose Family – Rosaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rhizomatous.
  • Height: 5–30 cm (2–12 in.). Stem limp–ascending, upper part branched, with spreading hairs, reddish.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), bright yellow, 15–20 mm (0.6–0.8 in.) broad; petals 5, with notched tips, often with orange spots at base, 8–10 mm long, longer than sepals. Calyx 5-lobed; with epicalyx, epicalyx lobes narrow, same length as sepals. Stamens 20. Pistils separate, at least 10. Inflorescence a narrow, lax, 3–10-flowered corymb.
  • Leaves: Basal leaves long-stalked, stem leaves alternate, short-stalked–stalkless, stipulate. Blade palmate, usually with 3 leaflets (basal leaves sometimes with 5 leaflets). Leaflets lanceolate–obovate, only tip with toothed margins, glabrous on top, underside hairy. Stipules elliptic–lanceolate–ovate.
  • Fruit: Quite elliptic, matt, lightly ridged achene, several together.
  • Habitat: Meadows, rocks, yards, banks, coppices, shore banks, tundra fell meadows, rich moors, Lappish rock faces and embankments.
  • Flowering time: April–August.

Alpine cinquefoil grows in two clearly separate areas in Finland: it is common in the south and the north, but rare in the middle of the country. In the southern half of Finland it is clearly most common in the Åland Islands and the south-west coast of the mainland, and slightly rarer in the province of Uusimaa and southern parts of southern Häme and Satakunta. The species’ northern habitat starts in the Salla, Saariselkä and Ounas-Pallas fell region. This diverse species thrives in acidic meadows but will also grow in rich meadows, traditional open clearings, light-filled rocky outcrops and open parts of the forest.

Alpine cinquefoil’s two-fold and, on closer inspection, multi-parted growing area in Finland is probably a legacy of a formerly coherent area that the Ice Age shattered and partially destroyed. Southern and northern plants look slightly different: the northern version is bigger and its leaves have without exception only three leaflets. It has not however been possible to draw a clear line between the two, so it would not be wise to split the species into sub-groups.

Alpine cinquefoil starts to flower in the south at the end of spring, but in Lapland it doesn’t bloom until the end of June or beginning of July. Its shiny yellow flowers, which are often a lively orange at the base of the petals, catch the passers-by’s attention. There is however no precise information on whether the plant really needs these any more: its seeds probably develop apomictically, without being fertilized.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family

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