Is Sulfur Cinquefoil a Candidate for Control with Sheep and Goats?

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $54,250.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jeff Mosley
Montana State University
Rachel Frost
Montana State University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: grazing - multispecies, range improvement
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer
  • Pest Management: eradication, field monitoring/scouting, physical control


    Sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) is long-lived perennial weed that is a prolific seed producer and is adapted to nearly every soil type and vegetation complex in the western U.S. This invader reproduces solely by seed. This two-year study found that defoliating sulfur cinquefoil during flower or later phenological stages reduced the plant’s yield and seed production. The viability of seed consumed by livestock was reduced, and all viable seed was passed within three days of consumption. Livestock grazing and mowing appear to be management options worth investigating for suppressing sulfur cinquefoil.

    Project objectives:

    This project addressed four specific objectives. Objectives 1-3 are separate research questions, each of which is capable of producing conclusive results independent of the others. The purpose of Objective 4 is to synthesize and distribute the information gained from each of the previous objectives.

    The objectives are:

    1) Determine the effects of different timings, frequencies and intensities of sulfur cinquefoil defoliation on a) plant yield, b) plant vigor, and c) seed production and viability.

    2) Examine sulfur cinquefoil seeds passing through the digestive tract of sheep and goats for a) time required to complete passage, and b) viability of seeds after passage.

    3) Evaluate the tannin content of sulfur cinquefoil a) at different phenological stages (pre-flower, flower and post-flower), and b) in response to clipping.

    4) Synthesize and disseminate the findings of the above projects to livestock producers, county extension agents and other educators, resource agency personnel and others to facilitate the development of grazing plans that reduce the spread of sulfur cinquefoil.

    Previous research and observations indicate that sheep and goats will consume sulfur cinquefoil, therefore, Objectives 1-3 are exclusively designed to address:

    1) the biological response of the plant to defoliation,
    2) the propensity for sheep or goats to spread viable seed, and
    3) the chemical composition of the plant at different seasons.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.