Sulfur Cinquefoil, (Potentilla recta)

2017 April 22

These plants stand about a foot and a half tall, and we find them pretty commonly throughout our yard and in the woods. They bloom around midsummer, like this one that I photographed on July 1, 2016.


I first noticed these plants downstate when I was a kid. I thought at the time that they were some sort of wild hemp related to marijhuana, based on the palmate leaves with long leaflets, although I later found out that the leaf shape is actually wrong (the tips are too broad and rounded, for one thing).


The flowers are very different from marijhuana, too, and in fact they make it clear that this plant is completely unrelated, and the similar leaf shape is simply a coincidence.



Of course, while I’ve known what they aren’t for a long time, I didn’t find out what they are until just now. They are a variety of Potentilla, most likely Potentilla recta. These are in the Rosaceae family, and while a lot of their relatives have edible fruit (apples, pears, plums, strawberries, raspberries, etc.), these do not.

Sulfur cinquefoil is an introduced species in North America. While it is sometimes considered a weed, it isn’t as aggressively invasive as some other non-native species. They grow big taproots that they come up from every year, so they grow up pretty quickly in the spring until they blossom. It looks like the blossoms can range from yellow to nearly white, and the blossom I photographed was on the yellower end of the range, and also wasn’t fully open.

So, anyway, these are mostly harmless plants, and the bees like them. Just don’t try to smoke them, nothing will come of it.

One Response
  1. Tammy Ikonen permalink
    June 14, 2021

    I thought somebody had planted marijuana in my garden thank you for straightening that out

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