Potentilla sp.

Ruth is again responsible for today’s write-up:

My mother, Melinde Sanborn, submitted today’s awesome photo. She recently went to Mongolia on a group tour and took pictures of anything green for me to identify and use for Botany Photo of the Day. Thanks mom!

Potentilla is a large genus of approximately 330 species. Many species are common garden weeds and invaders of disturbed habitats, though some are also used as garden ornamentals. We’ve had to abandon attempts at identifying this particular plant, as references for the plants of Mongolia are hard to come by, to say the least. The Flora of China has a key to Potentilla that might be helpful, but the list of taxa is long, and these are very difficult to identify from photographs (assuming the species is distributed in China as well as Mongolia).

This picture is taken in the Gobi. It is redundant to call it the Gobi Desert, as gobi means “desert” or (more literally) “gravel-covered plain”. The Gobi covers 1,295,000 square km (500,002 mi2) and is Asia’s largest desert and the fourth largest in the world. Despite its large size, it is spread across only two countries: Mongolia and China. The area of the Gobi in Mongolia is called the Nemegt Basin, known locally as the Valley of Dragons. It is rich in fossils, including fossilized dinosaur eggs.

Potentilla sp.

27 responses to “Potentilla sp.”

  1. Knox

    Thanks Ruth and to your Mother for the photo which stimulated an informative write-up about the ‘desert desert’. Very interesting! BPotD brings us new facets every day!

  2. TC

    Soil requirements tag might read: Rocks and pebbles.

  3. Behty

    And this is a major “weed” in New Mexico….

  4. Lila Pereszke

    Great pic!!! Hm, but is it really a Potentilla sp.? My first thought was Tribulus terrestris… 🙂

  5. Gilbert Mohr

    That plant looks a lot like a creeping weed we have here in the lower Yakima valley. I do not know its scientific name, but folks around here call it puncture vine, and/or goat head weed. The latter, since the seed pod resembles a “Billy Goat” head. Can we blame China for the incursion of this noxious weed? It easily prevents me from riding
    a bicycle! What is the etymology of our unbeloved weed?

  6. Louise

    As a child in the Central Valley of California, I was tortured endlessly by this lovely plant!!!
    We called it ”Puncture Vine”…and it provided an awful wound in a child’s foot! Or anyone’s for that matter…the seed pods become hard as a rock with at least 3 hard pointed sharp ”needles” that make a large painful hole in the flesh. I was raised on a farm and liked to go barefoot in the summer…I hated the stuff.
    It was also plentiful in Arizona when i lived there…:)

  7. Millet

    This is the common “Goat Head”, which produces a lot of stickers. I kill them by the hundreds every year. Terrible plant. – Millet

  8. SandyinZ4

    I have to agree with some of the others who identified this as puncture vine. In my book Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains it says this is Zygophyllaceae – Caltrop Family Tribulus terrestris L. I am just putting that in for all you folks who understand it.:-) It can be eradicated if you have lots of time and want to bend over a lot. It pulls up fairly easily if you grasp it in the center when it is young before the seedheads (sticker parts) form. I agree it is a terrible weed and hard on bare feet and bicycle tires.

  9. bbum

    That looks like Tribulus Terrestris to me. Exactly the growth habits of young plants prior to producing their evil, evil, seed pods.
    I have a write up with detailed photos here:
    It is a universal plant, often grown purposefully by ignorant people because it will grow where no other plant will grow. Then the seeds come and these ignorant people become people in pain.

  10. ivan johnston

    I lived in Suisun valley for nineteen years on twelve acres. It took me ten years to eradicate this pest from the entire place,,by each year in the spring “pulling it up by hand”!. Trucks that visited the property were constantly bringing it back in their tires. Which when turned to leave left the seeds behind.

  11. cody

    There is no doubt that plant is a Tribulus species, likely T. terrestris but I’m not familiar with the flora of Mongolia. You can actually see the developing “goat’s heads” on the young stems.

  12. phillip

    yes…#1 enemy of my footies….

  13. Elaine Chrysler

    This must be in the same family as the round sprawling weed that comes up in my garden. I don’t pull it up because I love the yellow flowers and it is such a nice ground cover. it doesn’t cause problems in the garden on general terms.

  14. Elaine Chrysler

    oh, by the way. this plant I have in my garden is soft with no stickers. it is a lovely ground cover. does anyone have any ideas as to what my plant is? and a good site for ground covers. this one grew in the dry side of the cascade range of oregon and we have it here in Denver also dry weather.
    Thank you, Elaine

  15. Melinde

    We walked across this and rode our rented mountain bikes over it in the Gobi and never found anything sharp in this plant. We were warned about many things, but not stickers. This was in the last half of August and beginning of September.

  16. Don Morishita

    This plant is definitely not a Potentilla, but is Tribulus terrestris.
    Elaine mentioned a plant in her garden with similar flowers, but is soft with no stickers. That one sounds like common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It produces hundreds to thousands of seeds that are less than 1 mm wide and can drive gardeners crazy once it starts to emerge. It does make an excellent Mexican vegetable dish called verdolaga when it is harvested before flowering.

  17. Hollis

    yes, it’s puncture vine, the bane of my dog. I knew it well when I lived in California, but I hadn’t seen it here in Laramie until a couple of years ago. It now grows on disturbed soil adjacent to prairie between my house and the river … a spot my dog and I now avoid during the growing season.

  18. Carl Wishner

    It’s a great photograph. However, one that should not appear on any internet search for Potentilla. There is the potential that someone might not read the comments on this page. There’s already substantial botanical misinformation on the internet.
    Carl Wishner

  19. Jenn

    We have what must be a relative of that ‘goat’s head’ plant here in Phoenix. It’s a beautiful, beautiful flower, but the seedheads are a menance.
    Kallstroemia grandiflora

  20. Patricia Byrnes

    I will begin my studies toward an associate’s degree in Horticulture here in Omaha, NE in December. I left an 18 year career as an Intellectual Property Paralegal behind and took a job as a gardener for a nice, small company. I have pulled many weeds in the past few months! I have this one (or something much like it) in the gardens here. It kind of reminds me of something we call scurge or scourge (sp?). We pull a great deal of it.
    Than you for the great pictures and discussions everybody! They have helped me come to understand what can be a complex field at times.
    Patricia (Omaha)

  21. Wu-Tang

    Verrry niiice Ruth !!! Much respect to Melinde for the wonderful picture!

  22. Margaret-Rae Davis

    It is nice to see a different kind of Potentilla. It a very good photograph and I thank your Mother for that.
    Thank you,

  23. Robert Grace

    Does this plant (Tribulus Terrestris) grow in the lower mainland? If so, where?

  24. Dianne

    It is Tribulus terrestris (the second word in a genus species should NOT be capitalized BTW). The latin name means “troubled earth.” It is also known by puncture vine, goathead (because the seed head looks like a goats head with two pointy horns), scoured earth, etc. It is not a Potentilla nor is it even in the Rosaceae family; it’s Zygophyllaceae or cresote family.

  25. Daniel Mosquin

    Yes, Dianne — that’s been mentioned in the comments already.

  26. John Jebaraj

    Dear Sir,
    The picture for the date Nov. 08 2008 is not certainly Potentilla. Is it not Tribulus terrestris of Zygophyllaceae? Please make a correction.
    Prof.John Jebaraj,American Col. Madurai, South India
    Date 15th Jan. 2010

  27. Eric in SF

    I have to say the photo on this post looks JUST like what I know as Tribulus terrestris:

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