common cinquefoil

(Potentilla simplex)

Conservation Status
common cinquefoil
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

UPL - Obligate upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Common cinquefoil is a 2 to 12 tall, erect, ascending, or sprawling, perennial forb that rises from a rhizome. It often forms loose colonies.

The plant is erect at first, reaching up to 12 at first flowering. Later, the stems lean becoming widely ascending. Still later, they arch to the ground and sprawl along the ground with the tip ascending. These runners extend 6 to 20, have long spaces between the nodes, and root at the nodes. Eventually, they root at the tip, and produce a terminal tuber.

The stems are thin, and covered with long, soft, shaggy but unmatted hairs. They are initially green becoming reddish with age.

The leaves are alternate and palmately divided into 5 leaflets. The leaflets are inversely egg-shaped to elliptic, ¾ to 2¾ long, and up to ¾ wide. Young leaflets are narrow with margins curled up. The margins are coarsely toothed except near the base, where the leaflet attaches to the stem. The upper surface is hairless and conspicuously veined. The lower surface is hairy or nearly hairless.

The inflorescence is a single flower rising on a long, thin, hairy stalk from some of the upper leaf axils. The lowest flower usually arises from axil of the second well-developed leaf.

The flowers are 2 5 to 3 5 wide.The 5 petals are yellow, broad, narrow at the base, rounded at the tip, and sometimes slightly notched at the tip.The 5 green sepals are a little shorter than the petals and alternate with the petals. The 5 bractlets are smaller than the sepals, alternate with the sepals, and are hidden below the petals when the flower is viewed from above. There are 20 yellow stamens. There is no floral scent.




2 to 12


Flower Color




Similar Species

  Dwarf cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis) is similar in appearance, but does not occur in Minnesota.  

Dry. Prairies, open woods, fields, roadsides. This is an understory plant in tallgrass prairies.




April to June




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Rosales (roses, elms, figs, and allies)  


Rosaceae (rose)  
  Subfamily Rosoideae  
  Tribe Potentilleae (strawberries, cinquefoils, and allies)  
  Subtribe Potentillinae  


Potentilla (cinquefoil)  

Subordinate Taxa






Potentilla simplex var. argyrisma

Potentilla simplex var. calvescens

Potentilla simplex var. typica


Common Names


common cinquefoil

old-field cinquefoil

old-field five-fingers

oldfield cinquefoil

oldfield fivefingers

spreading cinquefoil












The upper angle where the leaf stalk meets the stem.



Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



A small, often secondary bract within an inflorescence; a bract that is borne on a petiole instead of subtending it.



The small swelling of the stem from which one or more leaves, branches, or buds originate


Palmately divided

Similar to a hand. Having more than three lobes that radiate from a single point at the base of the leaf.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

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  Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex)  
  Potentilla simplex COMMON CINQUEFOIL
Frank Mayfield
  Potentilla simplex COMMON CINQUEFOIL  



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Other Videos
  MyNature Apps; Identifying Common Cinquefoil, Potentilla simplex

Uploaded on May 31, 2011

How to identify Common Cinquefoil, Potentilla simplex also known as Five Fingers, Five-Finger Blossom, Five-finger grass, Sunkfield, Synkefoyle, Common Cinquefoil, Creeping Cinquefoil, Oldfield Cinquefoil




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