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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Argentina anserina (L.) Rydb.

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Common Name:

silverweed

06/30/2002

Silverweed as its name implies is a silver-haired, native perennial found on sand dunes, gravelly shores and in sandy wet meadows with full sun or partial shade. The plants range from 3 to 28 cm high and the flowers bloom from June to September.

Leaves are basal, up to 25 cm long, and pinnately compound with 11 to 25 leaflets. The leaflets are coarsely toothed. The larger leaves are commonly interspersed with smaller ones. The blades may be green to gray above, but are strongly whitened beneath with silky silver hairs.

The plants spread easily by seed and, like strawberries, also by sending out red “runners” or stolons (bottom photo). These long slender stolons root and sprout at the nodes to form new plants. The dense leaf cover close to the ground and the thick fleshy spreading roots help to stabilize shifting sands.  Silverweed roots can also be cooked and eaten.

The flowers, 2 to 3 cm across, are solitary on a long stalk at the nodes of the stolons. The five yellow petals are slightly ruffled at the edges.

Silverweed is typical of species in the Rose family: The 5 petals are separate but the 5 sepals are connected to each other. The flowers have many stamens and many pistils and the leaves have stipules at their base.

[The sedge to the left of the silverweed in the top photo is Carex garberi. The grass-like plant growing in straight lines above the silverweed clump in the bottom photo is lake shore rush, Juncus balticus.]

  • Origin of the name: Argentinus, L. god of silver money, argentum, L. silver; anserinus, L. of the goose, an obscure reference to a meadow habitat. Formerly Potentilla anserina.
  • Range: Circumboreal.  N. Amer. s. to NJ, TN, NB, CA
  • WI Range:  sandy lake shores, especially along Lake Michigan
  • Common associates: marram grass, cottonwood seedlings, lake shore rush
  • Wetland Indicator Status: FACW+
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: 4, WI; 5, MI; 6, Chicago Region
     
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