dwarf cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis)
Potentilla canadensis var. villosissima Fern.
Potentilla caroliniana Poir.
Potentilla pumila Poir.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of dwarf cinque-
foil is Potentilla canadensis L. There are two generally recognized variet-
ies of Potentilla canadensis - variety canadensis and variety villosissima
Fernald. Some authorities list var. villosissima as a synonym for Potentilla canadensis var. canadensis. The Atlas of Virginia Flora lists Potentilla
canadensis without variety for Facquier County; for the Nature Guide,
variety canadensis will be presumed. Subsequent research will be neces-
sary to confirm variety status.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Dwarf cinquefoil is a small, low, prostrate and spreading plant
with runners, rooting at the nodes and with leaves and flowers on separate
silvery-downy stems arising from the runner. It grows to 2-6 inches (5-15
cm) tall, with the stem becoming prostrate after flowering.
Leaves: Leaflets are up to 1 1/2" (3.8 cm) long, wedge-shaped with the
apex heavily dentate, but teeth nearly absent from the lower two-thirds of
the leaflet. Leaflets combine to form palmately 5-parted leaves.
Flowers: It has yellow flowers blooming singly on long stalks rising from
the axils. Flowers are 1/2-2/ inches (1.3-1.6 cm) wide with 5 sepals and 5
petals, and with numerous stamens and pistils.
Fruit/Seeds: The fruits are usually dry but may be fleshy and strawberry-
like, while the actual seeds – each one technically a single fruit – are tiny
Roots: Common Cinquefoil can form large mats in open areas. The plants
send out new roots as they creep along. Its even been known to reproduce vegetatively by sending out clones from the ends of the plant, known as
REGENERATION PROCESS: Dwarf cinquefoil propogates itself by
reseeding; root runners also contribute to spread.
HABITAT TYPES: Dwarf cinquefoil is found in fields and woods.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Dwarf cinquefoil prefers dry open soil.
This species has be tendency to grow in sterile soils and can be used as
an indicator of soil quality.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Dwarf cinquefoil is one of the earlier
blooming forbs, beginning in early spring and flowering until early sum-
mer (March through June).
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Dwarf cinquefoil is primarily a species
of the eastern United States and Canada. It ranges from Georgia to the
Canadian maritime provinces, and westward to Texas and the eastern por-
tion of the Great Plains. It distribution, however, may not be consistent,
as it has not been reported in Louisiana, and from parts of the Ohio
Valley region (Indiana and Illinois). In Canada, it extends as far west as
Ontario. It does not occcur naturally in the southwest, Rocky Mountain
states, the far western and northwestern states. Dwarf cinquefoil seems to
have not drawn much attention from researchers; its occurrance may not
be fully known, particularly in disjunctive situations.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Dwarf cinquefoil seems to have little
value to large and small mammals, waterfowl, and terrestrial birds.
Dwarf cinquefoil apparently is visited by butterflies, although inform-
ation pertaining to which species is not readily available.
The Potentilla genus has been used extensively as ornamentals in gardens
Early settlers in the United States used dwarf cinquefoil as a tonic and
astringent. Even today, herbalists claim dwarf cinquefoil is a good gargle
and mouthwash and a good remedy for diarrhea. The powdered root or
bark of the root can be used, as well as the leaves. The root bark has also
been recommended for stopping nosebleed and other internal bleeding.
Crooked Run Valley