Trailing Tormentil is one of the Potentilla group of wild flowers, which includes Silverweed, the Cinquefoils and Barren Strawberry.
Most of the group have small yellow flowers, usually with five petals. Tormentil usually has 4 petals but occasionally has five. The other difference is that Cinquefoil has leaves with five leaflets thus cinq feuille . But it is never that simple of course as sometimes it has leaves composed of 3 leaflets.
The commonest Tormentil is called just Tormentil and you can distinguish this because the leaves are attached directly onto the stem, ie it does not have a leaf stalk (petiole) also its flowers are quite small, about 7mm to 11mm across..
Finally that brings me on to Trailing Tormentill which is a plant that can grow in shady woodland habitats, not deep shade but on the edges of woodlands and heath land, it prefers acidic soils. Now Tailing Tormentil does have petioles also its flowers are a little bigger 14mm to 18mm across.
But there are also several hybrids and that can cause confusion. The hybrids are often refered to as ‘ The Tormentil Complex’ and there are various combinations of Potentilla erecta/reptans/x mixta/anglica.
I have been looking for some P.anglica for some time, and each time I spot a low growing creeping plant with yellow flowers it is either Creeping Cinquefoil or Tormentil. However recently I have also been on a quest to photograph Otters. I am a member of the Forest of Dean Camera Club, which is a good club and has some excellent photographers…. even better than me! Also whilst different members specialise in different aspects of photography, landscape, portrait, arty-farty, night time, monochrome etc, there are obviously, given our location a large number of wildlife photographers. Now the Forest of Dean is blessed with an exceptional range of wildlife, Deer, (Roe, Fallow and Muntjack), we have Foxes and Badgers, recently Beavers have been reintroduced and there is talk of reintroducing Pine Martens. The stand out species which is quite common is the Wild Boar. I should also say that the bird life is quite rich with Peregrines and Goshawks being regularly seen and Hawfinch, Crossbills, Great Grey Shrike, Mandarin Duck and many more on the menu.
So we get a lot of wildlife photos at the camera club, especially Wild Boar. However I have yet to see an Otter photo presented in our camera club competitions, so that was my aim…. to get some good Otter photos…. No luck so far, but the other morning I was sat by a stream which flows through the forest of Dean, where I had been informed Otters have been seen in the past and I saw some little yellow flowers. Not so little and on closer examination they had leaves with petioles and three leaflets per leaf. So it had to be either a Hybrid or the desired species Trailing Tormentil.
Now I am not an expert on the hybrid forms of Potentilla but there is a Face book group for British wildflowers with over 18,000 members, so I put some photos of the plant on the site and asked for help. Here is a slide show of the plant with some of its characteristics featured.
I have to say not a lot of help was fothcoming, perhaps the photos were not of sufficient clarity to identify exactly what the plant was or maybe the members of the group are not that inspired by hybrid tormentils!!!! I can sort of understand that. Any way one lady did venture an opinion and thought the chances were good that what I had found was P anglica but gave the advice that unless the flowers developed to produce seed, then we could not be sure. The hybrid forms are sterile whereas P anglica is fertile. I will revisit the site in a few weeks time to see if any seeds are being produced. But on my last visit the plant looked a bit ratty and I suspect it will die off and I will not be able to confirm if this really is Trailing Tormentil.