Prairie Cinquefoil

Botanical Name: Drymocallis arguta

Height: about 80 cm

Growing Conditions: Full sun. Well-drained soil.

Season of bloom: Early summer.

Wildlife benefits: From the invaluable website, Illinois Wildflowers: “The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract small bees and flies, especially Halictid bees and Syrphid flies. The larvae of some small insects form galls or mine the leaves of cinquefoils (Potentilla spp.). These species include the Cinquefoil Stem Gall Midge (Neolasioptera potentillaecaulis), the Cinquefoil Axil Gall Wasp (Diastrophus potentillae) and other galls wasps, the sawfly Fenella nigrita, and the Douglas moth, Tinagma obscurofasciella (Felt, 1917; Smith, 2006; Microleps website, 2010). Other insect feeders include Acyrthosiphon spp. and other aphids, Northern Grasshopper (Melanoplus borealis), and Bruner’s Grasshopper (Melanoplus bruneri); see Robinson & Bailey (1965), Blackman & Eastop (2013), and Brust et al. (2008). White-tailed Deer and probably other mammalian herbivores browse on the foliage of these plants occasionally – the seeds of cinquefoils often pass through their digestive tracts and remain viable. Thus, such mammalian herbivores help to spread these plants to new locations (Voigt Englund & Meyer, 1986; Myers et al., 2004). The seeds of cinquefoils are eaten in small amounts by the Deer Mouse and possibly other small rodents (Houtcooper, 1978).”

Seeds: Seed is small but produced abundantly and is easy to grow. Germination Code: C(60) + D. Seeds require light to germinate. Surface sow as thinly as you can on a pot of seed-starting mix, spritz gently with water to settle seeds in a film of water on top of the soil, put pot into a Ziplock freezer baggie, and keep in the refrigerator for 60 days. Bring into a warm, well-lit place. Be sure to remove from baggie if pot is in the sun, because you do not want to cook your seedlings. Seedlings are distinctive and grow relatively quickly.

From Ottawa Valley or eastern Ontario sources:

Remarks: This species is relatively tall so one might think it belongs with the warmth-loving summer tall-grass species but, in fact, it starts into growth early and does most of its growth during cool spring weather and is perhaps better thought of as the last of the spring flowers than the first of the summer flowers.

Similar species: This obliging native flower’s lack of popularity with gardeners may have something to do with the fact that is somewhat similar in appearance to the non-native and weedy yellow Common Cinquefoil. Prairie Cinquefoil flowers are white or light cream, not yellow.