Shrubby Cinquefoil

Dasiphora fruticosa

Species distinguishing characteristics: 

  • Perennial, multi-stemmed shrub with alternate leaves
  • Oval, dark green leaves arrange in a spiral, have paired stipules, and serrated leaf margins
  • Bark is reddish-brown, fibrous, and hairless
  • Yellow, rose-like flowers are terminal and solitary
  • Male and female flowers found on separate plants
  • Fruit is a cluster of light brown achene covered with long, white hairs

Family Characteristics: 

  • Perennial herbs, shrubs, or small trees
  • Leaves typically alternate but opposite on some species
  • Showy flowers with 5 well-rounded petals, 5 sepals, and 15 or more stamens in whorls
  • Fruit varies from species to species
  • Well-known members of this family include strawberries (Fragaria spp.) and raspberries (Rubus spp.)

Growth habitat: 

Deciduous shrub that is erect to spreading, 0.3–2 m tall.

Leaves and stems: 

Leaves have 3–9 linear to oblong-shaped, entire leaflets, 1–3 cm long, and serrated margins.  Leaves are dark green and have long, white hairs on the lower and upper surfaces.  Stems and branches are hairy in the first year of growth and become brown and hairless in the second year of growth. 

Bark: 

Soft hairs cover the bark in the first year of growth.  Bark turns reddish-brown, fibrous, and hairless in second and third years of growth. 

Flowers: 

Yellow, rose-like flowers, 1–3 cm wide, are terminal and solitary.  Flowers have 5 well-rounded, yellow petals, 8–13 mm long, 5 green sepals, and 15 or more stamens in a whorl.  Flowers grow from May to late September with the bulk of flowering in July and August.

Roots: 

Thin, woody, spreading roots that grow shallow to moderately deep.

Seeds: 

Each flower has a cluster of light brown achenes, 1.5–1.8 mm long, covered with long, white hairs.  Seeds may persist through the winter months.  Seeds mature in late summer to early fall and are wind-dispersed.  

Habitat preferences: 

Moist, open forests, wet mountain meadows, subalpine areas, and stream and river banks at low to mid-elevations.  Prefers full sun.  Grows well in calcareous or moderately acidic soils.

Interesting facts: 

Members of the rose family (Rosaceae) include valuable crop species such as apples, almonds, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and roses.  Family members range from ornamental shrubs to small trees and may be invasive.    

Shrubby cinquefoil tolerates moderate browse by ungulates.  The shrub’s spreading structure and persistent leaf growth make it an important forage source for ungulates despite its poor palatability and nutritional value.  Thick foliage provides moderate to high cover for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), songbirds (Passeriformes spp.), and small mammals, and nesting cover for songbirds.  Shrubby cinquefoil seeds are a fair food source for small birds and mammals.

Several Native American tribes use shrubby cinquefoil for medicinal and ceremonial purposes.  A tea of dried leaves, stems, or roots is used to treat congestion, internal bleeding, and tuberculosis.  Cheyenne healers describe an infusion of dried, finely powdered leaves used to protect the body from severe, temporary heat in ceremonies.  Some Cheyenne hunters produce an arrow poison out of a mixture of dried leaves.

Shrubby cinquefoil is useful for soil stabilization and erosion control.  It competes well on open, disturbed sites, resists weed invasions and is moderately drought tolerant. The shrub is difficult to grow from seeds; however, it grows well from cuttings and resprouts vigorously after a fire.  Shrubby cinquefoil is an excellent species for restoration of moist disturbed and meadow sites as it grows with little maintenance and provides habitat for small mammals and birds.    

Biological Classification: