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Springtime in the Suburbs

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Snowdrops have come and gone, but these are first showy WILDflowers of the year, dwarf cinquefoil.

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And in the front yard, ironically the least kempt part of the property, a garter snake basks on the leaf litter.

March 23--Spring arrives?

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Well the snow melted away finally, and what should we see but the bold leaves of dwarf cinquefoil (on the left) and chickweed (on the right) and possibly dandelion (in the middle).
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100 Species #42: Dwarf cinquefoil


This one was near the gate between the side yard and the big yard and was one of the first to bloom, but now there's dwarf cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis) all over the frickin' place.

Cinquefoil is another very innocuous weed of lawn and garden. I'm perfectly happy to let it be--like violet it's below weed-trimmer height, and it produces a nice little flower. It's a perennial, often the only green thing in a yard in winter, and spreads with vining stems, which probably annoys fans of monocultural grass lawns. My only problem with it is that at a glance it can be mistaken for strawberry--other cinquefoils with three leaf patterns instead of five are even worse.

When generic cinquefoil was 365 species #33 (on February second!) it happened to be dwarf cinquefoil in the picture.

Urban Nature Pictures 6/14


A small bee on a blossom of sulfur cinquefoil Potentilla recta

Huge hideous hand added for scale.

365 Urban Species. #033: Cinquefoil


Urban Species #033: Cinquefoil Potentilla canadensis

No, it's still not spring, but we are at the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox. But this little weed belongs to a group of hardy plants called "cinquefoils" no matter how many leaves they have (the name is French for five leaf), though they usually have three, five, or seven. The scientific name potentilla means "little powerful one" which says more about the symbolism of the number five than it does about the plant itself. Being in the rose family, cinquefoils have five-petaled flowers, further emphasizing the "five" symbol. Cinquefoils are high in tannins, making them useful herbs in those applications requiring an astringent.

There are 300 species of cinquefoil worldwide, over 100 of them occurring in North America. The most common urban species are P. simplex ("common cinquefoil"), P. canadensis ("dwarf cinquefoil") and P. recta ("sulfur cinquefoil.") This last one I see most often, with a pale sulphur yellow flower, instead of the bright buttercup yellow flower that the others have. Sulphur cinquefoil is native to Europe, and is considered invasive in several western states.

Dwarf and common cinquefoils thrive as weeds in lawns, low enough to be passed over by the mower and bad tasting to many herbivores.


The Urban Pantheist

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October 2014



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