Potentilla simplex (Common Cinquefoil)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; open woods, old fields, meadows
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:6 to 24 inch creeper
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flower] A single flower is at the end of a long naked stalk that arises from a leaf node. Flowers average about ½ inch across with 5 yellow heart-shaped petals, numerous yellow-tipped stamens that turn red with age, and 5 green pointed-tipped sepals that are shorter than the petals. One plant typically has a few to several flowers.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are palmately compound in groups of 5, alternately attached and tend to be widely spaced on the stem. Leaflets are up to 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, rounded at the tip, tapering at the base, with the middle leaflet largest and the end pair smallest. There are large sharply pointed teeth around the edges except at the base, and the underside is hairy to varying degrees. Stems are also hairy to varying degrees and turn from green to red with age.


Common Cinquefoil is a branching, sprawling plant that is typically low to the ground, rarely reaching a foot tall, and can reroot where the leaf nodes touch the ground, creating dense patches. There are several cinquefoil species, with similar flowers. Distinguishing features are the length of the sepals relative to the petals, and the number of leaflets and their arrangement. Common Cinquefoil has sepals shorter than the petals, and 5 leaflets palmately compound.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Janene - Fillmore County near Preston on the Root River Bike Trail
on: 2013-06-30 16:31:24

June 30, 2013

Posted by: Ashleigh - Minneapolis - Waite Park Community Garden
on: 2016-07-06 16:54:30

I was assigned a new plot this year in the Waite Park Community Garden (NE Mpls). I thought it was a strawberry plant this spring, but now I realize it is not. So far with all my Googling, this is the closest thing I can come up with to identify it. Does that seem likely? Any advice / suggestions on what I should do with it? (pull up and destroy, try to replant at my house instead of in the vegetable garden, etc?)

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-06 17:34:10

Ashleigh, the definition of a "weed" is: a plant out of place. Whatever it is, you probably don't want it in your vegetable garden. Other than that, the only advice I can give you is to positively ID the plant before transplanting it anywhere. If it is a yellow 5-petaled flower and you think it might be Potentilla simplex, compare the leaves very closely with the other Potentilla species before making a determination. Do try the advanced search for additional options. Finally, just because it's native doesn't mean it's desirable :-)

Posted by: Ellie - Rochester
on: 2020-06-01 13:01:21

The definition of a weed is "a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants" but frankly that's a poor definition. A weed is more akin to something from another local that spreads rapidly (not wanted even though you may want it) and crowds out native/ornamental plants (competition) but is not listed as invasive at this time. Not wanted by a single individual hardly constitutes the right to call a plant a weed. We'd each have our own qualifications of what weeds are. What a nightmare! That would make it hard to determine what plants are appropriate to ones surroundings.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-06-01 13:31:05

Ellie, I don't think undesirable plants have to be among cultivated plants to be considered a weed. Weeds also happen in all manner of natural areas that are not cultivated.

Posted by: Isaac Bruestle - Minneapolis
on: 2022-05-17 15:10:56

I'm looking at a very young plant and trying to discern if it is potentilla or cutleaf toothwort. Any thoughts?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-05-18 08:19:00

Isaac, the leaflets of cinquefoil are pretty evenly serrated, where toothwort are more irregularly toothed. If you would like more help with an ID, post some photos on the Minnesota Wildflowers facebook page.

Posted by: G. Clark - South Washington County
on: 2023-06-07 09:19:19

Any suggestions on how to tell the difference between Sulfur Cinquefoil (invasive) and Common Cinquefoil (native)?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-06-07 09:56:20

G. Clark, common cinquefoil is sprawling with many runners, consistently has 5 leaflets and has bright yellow flowers, where sulfur cinquefoil is much hairier, more erect, lacks runners, has 3 to 7 leaflets and pale yellow flowers. Both having palmate leaflets is the only real similarity.

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