Silver and Gold

20th April 2013

Another plant appearing on the chalk downland but can also be found in other grassland, the edges of arable field, roadsides, dunes and although it likes chalky soil it can be found elswhere, it is Silverweed Potentilla anserina. or though it is now sometimes being described as Argentina anserina.
This member of the rose family is a close relative of the strawberry. It is a perennial plant, normally low growing and rarely getting above 15cm.  The distinctly silver coloured leaves are very noticeable and gives the plant its name.  Later in the year, in another month or so it will produce yellow (gold), almost Buttercup like flowers.

Silverweed Potentilla anserina
The plant grows throughout Europe and North America and across the northern hemisphere and has a long history of being used as a food wherever it’s found.  In Canada and the USA the plant grows along the west coast and in the Rockies and was used by Native American tribes wherever it was found, it was so prized that its roots were sometimes given as wedding gifts. In Scotland and the Hebrides it was known as Brisgein and was regularly harvested, in times of famine such as during the potato blight it was relied upon and kept many communities alive. At the turn of the last century it was reported as being used as a root vegetable in Tibet.


Although the leaves are edible they are only really useful, finely chopped as a herb. They have been used to make a tea which was drunk to treat diarrhoea or bleeding piles! They have also been put into shoes to both soak up sweat and to cool hot spots. Indeed the leaves do have a pleasing cooling effect to the touch.

As a food though it is the root which has traditionally been used. Best collected in spring and autumn is can be eaten raw or roasted, boiled and mashed or fried.  They can even be dried and ground and used as a flour.  As well as being a source of carbohydrate they are rich in magnesium and phosphorus.

Unless you are lucky enough to find them growing in sandy soil, look for them at the edges of ploughed field where digging them up will be easier than in compacted grassland.

Don’t forget to get the land owners permission before digging up any plant.

Kev Palmer

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