Shrubby Cinquefoil

Dasiphora fruticosa (Shrubby Cinquefoil; syn. Potentilla fruticosa L., Pentaphylloides fruticosa (L.) O.Schwarz) is a shrub in the family Rosaceae, native to the cool temperate to subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, often growing at high altitudes in mountains.

It is a deciduous, much branched flowering shrub growing to 0.1–1 m tall, rarely up to 1.5 m. The habit is variably upright to sprawling or prostrate, but stems are often ascending especially those stems with many long branches. The bark of older stems is shreddy with long thin strips. The plants are densely leafy, the leaves are divided into five or seven (occasionally three or nine) pinnate leaflets. The leaflets are linear-oblong, 3-20 mm long, with entire margins and more or less acute ends. The foliage (both leaves and young stems) is pubescent, variably covered in fine silky, silvery hairs about 1 mm long. The flowers are produced terminally on the stems and are 2–3 (–4) cm across, buttercup-shaped, with five petals and 15–25 stamens; the petals are pale to bright yellow (orange to reddish in some western Chinese populations). The fruit is a cluster of achenes covered with long hairs. The species is variably dioecious or bisexual; flowering is typically from early to late summer. It is normally found growing in moisture retentive soils in swamps and moist rocky areas.

There are two subspecies:

  • Dasiphora fruticosa subsp. fruticosa. Described from Yorkshire, England and Öland, Sweden. Northern Europe (scattered, in Estonia, Great Britain, Ireland, Latvia, and Sweden) and northern and central Asia.
  • Dasiphora fruticosa subsp. floribunda (Pursh) Kartesz (syn. Potentilla floribunda Pursh., Dasiphora floribunda (Pursh) Raf., Pentaphylloides floribunda (Pursh) A.Love). Described from Canada, New York, and New Jersey, North America. Asia, southern Europe (Spain east to Bulgaria), and North America.

A number of varieties have been described from Asia, some of which have not yet been published under the genus Dasiphora, and others in that genus only as distinct species. These include Potentilla fruticosa var. albicans Rehd. & Wils., P. f. var. arbuscula (D.Don) Maxim. (syn. Dasiphora arbuscula (D.Don) Soják), P. f. var. dahurica (Nestl.) Ser. (syn. Dasiphora dahurica (Nestl.) Komarov), P. f. var. pumila J.D.Hooker, P. f. var. mandschurica (Maxim.) Wolf (syn. Dasiphora mandshurica (Maxim.) Juz.), and P. f. var. unifoliolata Ludlow (syn. Dasiphora unifoliolata (Ludlow) Soják). The varieties D. f. var. monticola Rydb. and D. f. var. tenuiloba Rydb. have been described from western North America, but are not widely accepted as distinct.

The species is also occasionally known as Tundra-rose and Widdy.

Cultivation and uses

Shrubby Cinquefoil is a popular ornamental plant throughout the cooler regions of Europe, the United States and Canada. Different cultivars are variable with flowers ranging from white to yellow, orange and pink, but they are all hardy plants that produce flowers for much of the summer. The flowers are always small, flat, and round, but there are many dozens on each bush. It is very often used by cities and businesses for landscaping because of its hardiness and low maintenance. It was introduced into cultivation in the 1700s, but many of the modern cultivars, particularly those with orange or red flowers, derive from collections by Reginald Farrer in western China in the early 20th century. Plants are most often still grown and sold under the old name Potentilla fruticosa.

Over 130 cultivars have been named; some of the more recommended current cultivars include:

  • 'Abbotswood' - large white flowers and bluish green foliage.
  • 'Beanii' - green foliage and white flowers.
  • 'Coronation Triumph' - medium-bright yellow flowers, plants are drought and cold tolerant and heavy bloomers.
  • 'Daydawn' - salmon-pink flowers.
  • 'Day Dawn Viette' - peach-soft rose flowers highlighted with cream.
  • 'Elizabeth' - yellow flowers to 3.5 cm diameter.
  • 'Farreri' - leaves mostly with seven leaflets, flowers golden yellow.
  • 'Farrer's White' - as 'Farreri', but with white flowers.
  • 'Goldfinger' - deep golden-yellow flowers on plants with dark green foliage, good plant form and heavy flowering.
  • 'Katherine Dykes' - gracefully arching branches with lemon-yellow flowers, medium green foliage. Needs regular trimming to keep from becoming leggy.
  • 'Klondike' - large bright yellow flowers, 3.5-4 cm diameter.
  • 'Maanelys' ('Moonlight') - leaves blue-green, flowers pale yellow.
  • 'Mount Everest' - flowers large, 3-3.5 cm, white.
  • 'Pink Queen' - pink flowers.
  • 'Primrose Beauty' - pale yellow flowers, silver tinted foliage. A good performer in the landscape with good habit and blooming, introduced in the Netherlands in 1955.
  • 'Pyrenaica' - prostrate, to 20 cm tall; leaves mostly with three leaflets; flowers golden yellow.
  • 'Snowbird' - double flowers with 12–15 white petals. Blooms more than 'Abbotswood' and has dark green foliage.
  • 'Tangerine' - as 'Farreri', but with orange-red flowers.
  • 'Vilmoriniana' - vigorous, to 1.3 m tall; leaves grey-white hairy, flowers ivory white to pale yellow.
  • 'Walton Park' - flowers very large, 3.5-4 cm, golden yellow.
  • 'William Purdom' - leaves mostly with seven leaflets, flowers pale yellow.
  • 'Yellowbird' - bright yellow semi-double flowers with 8–10 petals. Medium green foliage and winter hardy, introduced from University of Manitoba.


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