Agrimonia pubescens (Downy Agrimony)

Plant Info
Also known as: Soft Agrimony, Soft Groovebur
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; average moisture; open woods, thickets, woodland edges, banks, swamps
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Elongating spike-like racemes at the top of the stem and arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are ¼ to about 1/3 inch across with 5 oval yellow petals and 5 to 10 yellow stamens, the tips yellow to orange. Alternating with the petals are 5 green sepals that are pointed at the tip, sparsely hairy and about half as long as the petals.

[photo of flower hypanthium] Surrounding the base is a calyx-like structure known as a hypanthium, narrowed to a stalk-like base, with 3 or 4 rows of hooked bristles in a ring around the tip and a leaf-like bract at the base. Flowers are ascending to spreading at flowering time, mostly alternate and may be widely spaced on the lower part of the cluster. Stalks, sepals, bracts and the hypanthium are all variously covered in long, white hairs and may be sparsely gland-dotted.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaf] Leaves are compound with 3 to 13 major leaflets (5 to 9 on mid-stem), and 1 to 3 pairs of small leaflets in between the larger ones. The end leaflet is largest, 1¼ to 4 inches long, ½ to 2 inches wide, becoming smaller towards the base of the compound leaf. Leaflets are generally lance-elliptic, mostly widest near the middle, coarsely toothed with mostly sharply pointed teeth.

[photo of stipules] At the base of the leaf stalk is a pair of leafy appendages (stipules), those on mid-stem each lance to ½ egg-shaped in outline, up to about ¾ inch long, about half as wide, and coarsely toothed around the edge. The upper surface of leaflets and stipules is hairless to sparsely hairy, the lower velvety soft from dense, long, spreading hairs mostly along the veins, and fine hairs along the edges. The lower surface may also be sparsely gland-dotted.

[photo of stem hairs] Stems are stout, mostly erect, branched, and covered in a mix of long and short hairs, dense on the lower stem and less so in the flower clusters. Roots are tuberous.

Fruit: Fruit type: barbed Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The hypanthium becomes nodding and enlarges to about 1/8 inch long or so at maturity, the base usually bowl to bell-shaped, with 10 shallow to deep grooves. The surface is variously covered in long hairs, especially near the base and in the grooves. The sepals persist and become erect, forming a beak at the tip, usually a bit shorter than the bristles. The rows of hooked bristles spread out, the top row becoming erect and the lowest row spreading at a 90° angle or nearly so. Bristles may all become erect when dry. Inside the hypanthium is a single seed.


There are 3 Agrimony species in Minnesota, all of which have similar leaves, flowers and fruit. Downy Agrimony most closely resembles Roadside Agrimony (Agrimonia striata), which has similar hairs but is noticeably more heavily gland-dotted on the leaf underside, the leaf hairs are appressed, not spreading, stipules tend to be toothed only on the lower half, roots are fibrous, not tuberous, and it is more widespread in the state where Downy Agrimony is mostly found within the southeast quadrant. The third Agrimonia species, Tall Hairy Agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala), is probably the easiest to recognize from the dense covering of short, glandular hairs mixed with sparse long, spreading non-glandular hairs on both stems and leaf undersides. While many references note differences in the hypanthium shape of the 3 species, this is often a really subtle distinction so we tend to ignore it, though A. pubescens seems to be the smallest of the 3. Some references also note that A. pubescens flowers are mostly alternate where A. striata are mostly nearly opposite, but we haven't found this a reliable distinction in the field either; however, it is also noted that alternate flowers (A. pubescens) are more likely to be well separated where opposite flowers (A. striata) are more likely to be crowded. That may or may not be useful to a positive ID.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Chisago, Houston and Washington counties.


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