Known commonly as partridge foot due to the resemblance of finely divided leaves to the foot of a partridge, Luetkea pectinata is a mat-forming, rhizomatous, evergreen semi-shrub. The erect stems of this plant stand 10 to 15 cm tall and are covered in tiny leaves, though most of the leaves are arranged in thick basal tufts. The leaves not only give L. pectinata it’s common, but are distinctive in that they are macrescent, meaning they wither while remaining in place. The leaf petioles are approximately the same length as the leaves at 5 to 10 mm long. The small, white flowers are composed of spatualte petals, about 3 mm long. Flowers are arranged in a dense terminal cluster on an upright leafy stem ap to 15 cm tall. The fruit of L. pectinata is a 5 mm long, several seeded follicle.
The typical habitat includes moist, shaded meadows and scree slopes from mid to alpine elevation, where snow remains late into the spring. The geographic range stretches from Alaska to northern California, from the Cascades west. Habitats stretch eastward into the Rockies as well, from southern British Columbia and soutwest Alberta to eastern Idaho and western Montana. L. pectinata is a common sight in alpine areas of the Pacific Northwest.
This species is also known as Spiraea pectinata, creeping spirea or mountain spirea, though the accepted Latin name is L. pectinata and the most commonly used common name is partridge foot. The origins of the genus name Luetkea lie with Count F.P. Lutke, the 19th century Russian sea captain and explorer. The specific epithet refers to the word &lswuo;pectinate’, or like teeth of a comb similar to the appearance of the leaves.
Hitchcock, C.L. and A. Cronquist (1994) Flora of the Pacific Northwest, University of Washington Press, Seattle and London.
Pojar, J. and A. McKinnon (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, Washington, Canada.