Marsh Cinquefoil

2016 October 22

Our second flower found beside the Pilgrim River on June 26, 2016 is this odd-looking specimen:


It almost doesn’t look like a flower. The maroon petals[1] are kind of rough and husk-like, and the center almost looks as if the fruit had already been picked. But, it was clearly producing pollen, and it was early enough in the season that we can be pretty sure it didn’t have time to get beyond the blooming stage. The flowers weren’t too large, as you can see by comparing them with my fingers.


This is the very distinctive Marsh Cinquefoil, Comarum palustre[2], which is native to cool wetlands all around the arctic circle. Here we can see the leaves, which are compound groups of five leaflets.


The plants seem to be filling the gap between woody trees/shrubs, and herbaceous plants. Which makes sense, because the family that they are in (Rosaceae) includes both woody plants (roses and a number of common fruit trees) and herbaceous plants (like strawberries).

In fact, it turns out that these are closely enough related to strawberries that they can be crossed with them to produce viable hybrids. The crosses with strawberries are mainly used as ornamentals, I gather they aren’t much good for fruit.

[1] The search to identify this was ludicrously easy. I just typed “maroon wetland flower” into Google, and it popped right up, first hit.

[2] This used to be Potentilla palustris, and some people still call it by that name.

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