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Trailing Tormentil: a botanical torment

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Trailing Tormentil: a botanical torment

I find having an all round interest in nature presents me with some difficult challenges! The same would be true for the casual observer or the budding naturalist starting out. The difference between some species is very small indeed and expert knowledge is needed to sort them out. This is true with botany, entomology, ornithology; indeed most nature related 'oligies'. 

So it is with this species, one could say differentiating trailing tormentil (Potentilla anglica) from tormentil is something of a torment for the non-specialist botanist! These are very similar plants and occur in similar habitats so just what is the difference? Trailing tormentil has a slightly larger flower than tormentil, they are about the same size as the flowers of the similar creeping cinquefoil. In addition, the leaves on tormentil have virtually no stalks and so are attached almost directly to the stem whereas in trailing tormentil the leaves are stalked; short stalks on the top leaves and longer stalks below. Easy? Well not quite, because creeping cinquefoil has stalked leaves and a very similar flower although creeping cinquefoil has five petals (cinque = five, foil = petals) whereas the tormentils usually have four but some times have five.

How do I know that the photograph I have attached is of a five-petalled trailing tormentil? A very experienced botanist pointed out the plant to me otherwise I would have had no idea it was not tormentil, or creeping cinquefoil, or .....


 

If you would like to see the complete series that this post is part of click here ---->
This nature note was written by ----> Peter Orchard
This nature nore was written ----> 1 year 10 months ago

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