Silverweed (Potentilla anserina)
|Also known as:||traveller's ease, traveller's joy|
|Size||Basal leaf length: 5 – 25 cm (2)|
Petal length: 1 cm (2)
Not threatened (3).
The genus name of Silverweed, Potentilla, means ‘little powerful one’ (4). The ability of this plant to survive trampling, coupled with the soft texture of the leaves led to them being stuffed into shoes to relieve and cool the sore feet of travellers, hence the alternative common names of ‘traveller’s ease’ and ‘traveller’s joy’ (5). The deeply divided leaves are coated in a silky, silvery sheen of downy hairs, referred to by the common name ‘silverweed’ (2). The yellow flowers have five petals and are produced solitarily on the tips of long stalks (2).
Widespread and common throughout Britain to altitudes of 410 meters. It is found throughout most of Europe with the exception of the far northeast and the south. It occurs in northern and central Asia to the Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) (2). It has become widely naturalised outside of its native range (3).
Silverweed grows in open grassy areas or on bare ground in a range of habitats including areas subjected to seasonal flooding including dunes, the upper sections of saltmarsh, and shorelines as well as roadsides (3).
This perennial herb spreads mainly by producing horizontal stems or runners, correctly called stolons, from which new plants arise (3). The flowers are visited by a range of pollinating insects (2) but fruiting is typically very poor (3).
The roots of this herb were widely eaten as a vegetable, particularly in times of famine and it was even cultivated in some areas prior to the arrival of the potato. It was eaten raw, boiled or roasted and could be ground down to make bread and porridge. It was also used to treat mouth ulcers and wounds (4).
This species is not threatened at present.
Conservation action is not required for this common species.
For more on British native plants and for details of how to get involved in plant conservation visit the website of Plantlife, the wild plant charity:
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- Genus: a category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Perennial: plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
- National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2003): http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
- Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G., and Moore, D.M. (1987) Flora of the British Isles 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. and Dines, T.D. (2002) New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Grigson, G. (1996) The Englishmans Flora. Helicon Publishing, Ltd., Oxford.
- Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.