Winter Plant ID: Sulphur Cinquefoil

Photo of Sulphur Cinquefoil winter stalk

About a century ago, observing Sulphur Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) would have required a trip to Europe. But now this herbaceous perennial is established in fields and along roadsides throughout much of North America and as such can be studied year-round, if you know where to look.

While the plant's five-petaled, yellow flowers are of no assistance for white season identification, the numerous five-parted, hairy seed capsules, which are found at the tops of the many-branched, 2-3' tall stalks, are. These capsules account for another common name for this species: Rough-fruited Cinquefoil.

Photo of Sulphur Cinquefoil fruit capsule

The alternately arranged leaves are palmately divided (like those of Common Blackberry) into 5 or 7 leaflets (upper leaves may have only 3), and dried leaves often persist into the white season and can assist with identification efforts.

For help with keying out a mystery white season plant skeleton, I recommend A Guide to Wildflowers in Winter: Herbaceous plants of northeastern North America (1995) by Carol Levine (additional guides are listed on my Book Picks page under Winter Exploring). For more photos of Sulphur Cinquefoil, visit GoBotany.

Photo of Sulphur Cinquefoil dried leaf

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