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Potentilla versicolor

Steens Mountain cinquefoil, varying cinquefoil

Habit Plants rosetted to ± matted; taproots ± fleshy-thickened. Herbs, perennial, rarely annual or biennial, shrubs, or subshrubs; unarmed.

prostrate to ascending, (0.7–)1.5–2.5(–4) dm, lengths 2–4(–5) times basal leaves.


alternate, rarely opposite, pinnately (palmately) compound (simple in Alchemilla, Aphanes, and Chamaerhodos);

stipules persistent (absent in Chamaerhodos), adnate to petiole;

venation pinnate or palmate.

Basal leaves

pinnate with distal leaflets ± confluent, 4–12 × 1–2.5(–3.5) cm;

petiole 1–3 cm, straight hairs absent (on early-season petioles) or sparse to common, spreading-ascending to loosely appressed, 1–2 mm, soft, cottony hairs usually absent, glands sparse;

primary lateral leaflets 3–5 per side, on distal (1/3–)1/2–2/3 of leaf axis, overlapping, largest ones cuneate to flabellate, 0.5–1.5(–2) × 0.5–1.5 cm, distal 3/4 to whole margin unevenly incised 2/3 to completely to midvein (blade often medially split as well), ultimate teeth or segments 2–5(–8), ± oblanceolate, 3–11 × 1–3 mm, apical tufts to 1 mm, surfaces green to grayish green, not glaucous, straight hairs sparse to common (sparser adaxially), sometimes absent (except on margins), loosely appressed to ascending, 1–2 mm, soft, cottony hairs absent, glands sparse to common.

Cauline leaves



(1–)3–10-flowered, usually openly cymose.


1–3(–5) cm, straight to slightly recurved in fruit.


epicalyx bractlets lanceolate to elliptic, rarely ovate, 2–5 × 1–2 mm, sometimes apically toothed;

hypanthium 3–5 mm diam.;

sepals 4–7 mm, apex acute;

petals 4–7 × 3–5.5 mm;

filaments (1–)1.5–2.5 mm, anthers 0.5–0.8 mm;

carpels 10–25, styles 2 mm.

perianth and androecium perigynous;

epicalyx bractlets present, sometimes absent;

hypanthium usually patelliform, cupulate, or campanulate, sometimes turbinate, saucer-shaped, flat-bottomed, or subglobose to ellipsoid or ovoid;

torus flat to conic or turbinate, enlarged (absent or reduced in Alchemilla, Aphanes, and Chamaerhodos);

carpels 1–260, styles basal or lateral to subterminal, distinct;

ovules 1(or 2), basal.


aggregated achenes (achenes in Alchemilla and Aphanes);

torus sometimes fleshy;

styles deciduous or persistent, not elongate.


1.5–1.8 mm, smooth to faintly rugose, not carunculate.

Potentilla versicolor

Rosaceae tribe Potentilleae

Phenology Flowering summer.
Habitat Rocky, alpine meadows, seasonally moist slopes, near streams or snowmelt
Elevation 2100–3200 m (6900–10500 ft)
from FNA
[WildflowerSearch map]
North America; Mexico; Central America; South America; West Indies; Bermuda; Eurasia; Africa; Atlantic Islands; Pacific Islands; Australia

Potentilla versicolor is most common on Steens Mountain in Harney County, Oregon. Collections are known from other mountain ranges in eastern Oregon (some possibly representing distinct taxa) and from near Island Lake in the Ruby Mountains of northeastern Nevada. The species often grows and, apparently, intergrades with P. breweri; it is usually distinct in its lack of cottony hairs. Petals, filaments, and styles tend to be somewhat shorter in P. versicolor than in P. breweri. Collections of P. versicolor have most often been identified as P. breweri, P. millefolia, or P. ovina.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Genera 14–22, species ca. 860 (14 genera, 189 species, including 1 hybrid, in the flora area).

The base chromosome number for Potentilleae is mostly x = 7 (8 in Alchemilla and Aphanes; 14 in Comarum).

Variation in the number of genera recognized in Potentilleae is due to differences in generic delimitation between D. Potter et al. (2007) and the authors of Potentilla and segregates here (see 9. Ivesia and 8. Potentilla for discussion). In the former, Duchesnea, Horkelia, Horkeliella, and Ivesia are included within Potentilla. Likewise, Aphanes is included within Alchemilla by Potter et al. while it is kept distinct here.

Potentilla and its segregates and Fragaria are host to Phragmidium rusts, but not the other genera of the tribe.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Shrubs; leaf lobe margins entire; achenes hirsute.
1. Herbs, perennial, sometimes annual or biennial, or subshrubs; leaf lobe margins or apices ± toothed, sometimes entire; achenes glabrous (sometimes ± hairy)
→ 2
2. Petals 0, sepals 4; achenes 1, enclosed in dry, urceolate or subglobose to ellipsoid or ovoid hypanthia
→ 3
2. Petals and sepals usually 5; achenes 1–260, usually aggregated (sometimes on elongating tori), usually in (± open) patelliform, cupulate, campanulate, or turbinate hypanthia (not enclosed in dry hypanthium)
→ 4
3. Herbs perennial; leaves basal, blades reniform to orbiculate, palmately lobed, sometimes palmately compound; stamens 4.
3. Herbs annual; leaves cauline, blades cuneate, deeply divided into segments, each lobed; stamen 1(or 2).
4. Leaves all or mostly basal or proximal (if cauline, deeply pinnatifid), ternate or 2–4-ternate (sometimes simple and coarsely toothed apically in Sibbaldia)
→ 5
4. Leaves basal or cauline, the latter usually reduced distally, odd-pinnate to palmate, rarely ternate or ± bipinnate
→ 9
5. Tori becoming red and fleshy in fruit; leaf margins serrate to crenate
→ 6
5. Tori hemispheric (not enlarged or fleshy) in fruit or absent; leaf margins entire or (2–)3(–5)-toothed apically
→ 7
6. Leaves ± doubly serrate or crenate; stolons leafy; inflorescences: flowers solitary, axillary at stolon nodes; petals yellow.
6. Leaves serrate to crenate; stolons not leafy; inflorescences 1–10-flowered, cymes, axillary from leaf rosettes; petals usually white.
7. Leaves pinnately compound or simple and deeply pinnatifid, margins entire, stipules absent.
7. Leaves ternate, margins toothed apically, stipules persistent
→ 8
8. Petals ± yellow; stamens 5.
8. Petals usually white; stamens 20(–30).
9. Petals deep red to purple, rarely pink, shorter than sepals; tori enlarged and spongy at maturity; horizontal stems sometimes floating, wetland habitats.
9. Petals yellow to white, rarely pink or red (then equal to or longer than sepals); tori not enlarged and spongy at maturity; stems erect to decumbent, not horizontal or floating even if in wetlands
→ 10
10. Anthers dehiscing by continuous marginal slit (with a single theca); styles sub-basal.
10. Anthers dehiscing longitudinally; styles subterminal to lateral
→ 11
11. Hypanthium patelliform to campanulate or cupulate to turbinate (not flat-bottomed); filaments not forming tube; petals white to yellow, sometimes reddish or pink tinged
→ 12
11. Hypanthium ± cupulate or bluntly campanulate and flat-bottomed; filaments forming tube; petals usually white, sometimes pink-tinged, rose-veined, or cream
→ 13
12. Plants not aromatic; leaves ± cordate or reniform to narrowly elliptic in outline, leaflets 3–15(–41); petals oblanceolate or obovate to obcordate to nearly round, rarely elliptic; carpels 3–260.
12. Plants often aromatic; leaves planar to cylindric, leaflets (3–)7–161; petals linear or narrowly oblanceolate to obovate, sometimes obcordate; carpels 1–20(–40).
13. Stamens 10; leaflets (3–)5–41.
13. Stamens 20; leaflets 30–70.
Source FNA vol. 9, p. 171. FNA vol. 9, p. 119. Author: Luc Brouillet.
Parent taxa Rosaceae > subfam. Rosoideae > tribe Potentilleae > Potentilla > sect. Multijugae Rosaceae > subfam. Rosoideae
Sibling taxa
P. albiflora, P. ambigens, P. anachoretica, P. angelliae, P. anglica, P. anserina, P. arenosa, P. argentea, P. arizonica, P. basaltica, P. bicrenata, P. biennis, P. biflora, P. bimundorum, P. bipinnatifida, P. brevifolia, P. breweri, P. bruceae, P. brunnescens, P. canadensis, P. concinna, P. cottamii, P. crantzii, P. crebridens, P. crinita, P. cristae, P. demotica, P. drummondii, P. effusa, P. elegans, P. erecta, P. flabellifolia, P. fragiformis, P. furcata, P. glaucophylla, P. gracilis, P. grayi, P. hickmanii, P. hippiana, P. holmgrenii, P. hookeriana, P. hyparctica, P. inclinata, P. intermedia, P. jepsonii, P. johnstonii, P. lasiodonta, P. litoralis, P. macounii, P. millefolia, P. modesta, P. morefieldii, P. multijuga, P. multisecta, P. nana, P. newberryi, P. nivea, P. norvegica, P. ovina, P. paucijuga, P. pedersenii, P. pensylvanica, P. plattensis, P. pseudosericea, P. pulchella, P. pulcherrima, P. recta, P. reptans, P. rhyolitica, P. rimicola, P. rivalis, P. robbinsiana, P. rubella, P. rubricaulis, P. sanguinea, P. saximontana, P. sierrae-blancae, P. simplex, P. sterilis, P. stipularis, P. subgorodkovii, P. subjuga, P. subvahliana, P. subviscosa, P. supina, P. thurberi, P. thuringiaca, P. tikhomirovii, P. townsendii, P. uliginosa, P. uschakovii, P. vahliana, P. verna, P. villosa, P. villosula, P. vulcanicola, P. wheeleri
Subordinate taxa
Alchemilla, Aphanes, Chamaerhodos, Comarum, Dasiphora, Drymocallis, Duchesnea, Fragaria, Horkelia, Horkeliella, Ivesia, Potentilla, Sibbaldia, Sibbaldiopsis
Name authority Rydberg: in N. L. Britton et al., N. Amer. Fl. 22: 344. (1908) Sweet: Brit. Fl. Gard. 2: sub plate 124. (1825)
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