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Creeping Cinquefoil

Potentilla reptans

  • Name also: Creeping Tormentil, European Cinquefoil
  • Family: Rose Family – Rosaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock thick.
  • Height: 10–15 cm (4–6 in.). Stem limp, with runners, unbranched, rooting. Length up 1 metre (3 feet).
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), bright yellow, 15–25 mm (0.6–1 in.) broad; petals 5, with notched tips, 8–12 mm (0.32–0.48 in.) long, approx. twice as long as calyx. Calyx 5-lobed; with epicalyx, epicalyx lobes elliptic. Stamens 20. Gynoecium separate, pistils many. Flowers solitary in axils.
  • Leaves: Alternate, long-stalked–almost stalkless, stipulate. Blade palmate, with 5 (sometimes 7) leaflets, leaflets elliptic–obovate, large-toothed, green on both sides. Stipules narrowly elliptic, sharp-tipped.
  • Fruit: Greyish brown achene, several together.
  • Habitat: Meadows, lawns, banks, roadsides, wasteland, shores, old harbour sites.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Creeping cinquefoil, as its name suggests, has a limp stem and long runners. It spreads mainly vegetatively: its runners can reach a very long way and end up being taken by the sea to completely new habitats. A plant that has travelled one way or another then remains faithfully in its place once it takes root, even if it does not manage to enlarge its habitat.

Runners are not as very efficient way to travel when it comes to moving into new habitats. Seeds on the other hand travel easily with people and animals, and the species is also an alien in Finland, having arrived here in the sand that was used as ballast in sailing boats and later on with other traffic, at least in Kainuu as part of German soldiers’ provisions during WW II. Most plants grow in the Åland Islands and it is also known in the south-western archipelago. On the mainland there are separate stands in south-western Finland and Uusimaa, especially around coastal harbour towns. There are only a few known places where it grows inland.

In the wild creeping cinquefoil grows especially in coastal areas: in rocky places, seaweed banks and shore-side hedgerows. In coastal regions the plant can also be found further afield, in sandy and sunny clearings and dry land. Creeping cinquefoil has a tendency to favour places that are influenced by human activity, meadowland, roadsides, field margins and dry stone walls. People have used creeping cinquefoil for the tannic acids that can be found in its rootstock to treat different kinds of sickness and disinfect wounds.

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

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