- Family: Rose Family – Rosaceae
- Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock woody.
- Height: 10–50 cm (4–20 in.). Stem limp–ascending, usually hairy.
- Flower: Corolla lacking. Calyx regular (actinomorphic), greenish–yellow–reddish, 2–4 mm (0.08–0.16 in.) broad; sepals 4; with epicalyx. Stamens 4. Gynoecium 1-leaved. Flowers a small group in a wide, lax cyme in axils, terminating stem.
- Leaves: In basal rosette and alternate on stem, stalked–stalkless, stipulate, stem leaves small. Blade round–kidney-shaped, shallowly 5–11-lobed, often crinkled, small-toothed, with palmate venation.
- Fruit: Achene which remains inside the receptacle.
- Habitat: Yards, parks, roadsides, banks, wasteland, grazing land, meadows, rocks, fens, springs, ditches, shores, broad-leaved forests.
- Flowering time: May–August.
Lady’s mantle is often thought of as being a single species, but in fact it can be divided up into tens of micro-species. Its seeds are produced apomictically, without fertilisation, which means that even small inherited differences are preserved in its descendents. This development has led to many small but permanent distinctly separate lines. Lady’s mantles are easy to recognize, but differentiating the micro-species from one another demands a great deal of study.
The most important differences between lady’s mantles are the shape of the leaf blade, the number of teeth in the margin, the hairiness of certain parts of the stem, and the colour. Most of Finland’s 25 lady’s mantles have arrived with cattle farming and other human activity. These include Finland’s more common and wide-ranging species such as hairy lady’s mantle (A. monticola), common lady’s mantle (A. acutiloba) and broadtooth lady’s mantle (A. subcrenata). The group also includes six quite new arrivals, e.g. A. gibberulosa and A. semilunaris, which spread during the last wars and have mainly remained as curiosities around old barracks. Several species that grow in Finland are clearly dependent on people. These are native plants and include smooth lady’s mantle (A. glabra), A. murbeckiana and clustered lady’s mantle (A. glomerulans). A. hirsuticaulis and A. propinqua are endangered.
Lady’s mantles’ handsome, gingerbread-like leaves are very decorative, and they have begun to appear as ornamentals. Glittering raindrops often collect in the funnel at the base of the leaves after rainfall. Droplets can even form without rain: in particularly damp or foggy weather there is no evaporation, so some of the water that the plant pumps up from the earth seeps out through small water-holes in the leaves’ teeth. In the Middle Ages alchemists thought that the liquid could be the much sought-after quinta essentia, the fifth element, the water of life itself which could cure sickness, give eternal youth and change iron into gold. Lady’s mantle’s scientific name Alchemilla still bears witness to the alchemists’ dreams and their wasted efforts.
In Finland parsley piert is a rare introduced species that can be found in harbours and loading areas. In many older botanical books the parsley-piert is included in the same genus as lady’s mantles, but not in today’s info. Parsley piert is a small annual (lady’s mantles are perennials) and hairy. The flowers are located in leaf axils and their structure is quite similar to flowers of lady’s mantles. The leaves are three-parted and stipulate, lobes and stipules are round-toothed.
Lady’s mantles of Finland
Alchemilla alpina, A. auriculata, A. baltica, A. borealis, A. cymatophylla, A. filicaulis ssp. filicaulis, A. filicaulis ssp. vestita, A. gipperulosa, A. glabra, A. glabricaulis, A. glaucescens, A. glomerata, A. heptagona, A. hirsuticaulis, A. leiophylla, A. micans, A. mollis, A. monticola, A. murbeckiana, A. plicata, A. polemochora, A. propinqua, A. samuelssonii, A. sarmatica, A. semilunaris, A. subcrenata, A. subglobosa, A. vulgaris, A. wichurae, A. xanthochlora