Potentilla lasiodonta (Sandhills Cinquefoil)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry, sandy prairie
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:8 to 16 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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 Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branching cluster at the top of the stem, the flowers mostly short-stalked and congested at branch tips. Flowers are yellow, about ½ inch across, with 5 broad petals that are tapered at the base and mostly rounded at the tip. In the center are about 20 yellow stamens. The calyx cupping the flower has 5 lance to egg-shaped sepals, blunt to pointed at the tip, that are about as long as the petals. Behind each petal, alternating with the sepals, is a lance to pear-shaped bractlet, blunt to pointed at the tip, about as wide as and as long as or longer than the sepals. The calyx and flower stalks are covered in velvety hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound

[photo of lower leaf] Leaves are mostly basal and alternate on the lower stem, pinnately compound with 9 to 15 leaflets, on stalks 2 to 4+ inches (5 to 10+ cm) long. Leaflets are oblong-elliptic in outline, 3/8 to ~2½ inches (1 to 6 cm) long, the edges with 8 to 21 large teeth or narrow lobes per side, cut about halfway to the midvein and the edges rolled under. The lowest leaflets are smallest, becoming larger as they ascend the stalk. The uppermost stem leaves are much smaller and stalkless or nearly so. The upper surface is green and hairy, the lower surface gray-green from dense, short, velvety hairs.

[photo of hairy stem] Stems are multiple from the base, erect, unbranched except in the flower clusters, green to reddish, and densely covered in short, spreading hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod Fruit type: seed without plume

The sepals fold up, creating a capsule-like container, and eventually turn dark brown. Inside are many brown seeds, about 1 mm long. The old fruiting stems can persist through winter.


Sandhills Cinquefoil is rare in North America, considered vulnerable, imperiled or critically imperiled in Canada and extending into the US only in North Dakota and Minnesota. To date, the Minnesota population is in a single location in Polk County, first recorded in 1940 (though not IDed as P. lasiodonta until 2009) and rediscovered in 2018. While Potentilla lasiodonta may indeed be rare in Minnesota, it is only tracked by the DNR due to insufficient information and is not on the official rare species list (yet).

It is similar to the much more common Pennsylvania Cinquefoil (Potentilla pensylvanica) and has been treated as a variety of that species in some references, P. pensylvanica var. arida, or as synonym Potentilla finitima. P. lasiodonta is distinguished by pinnately compound leaves with teeth/lobes cut about halfway to the midvein, the larger leaflets with up to 21 teeth per side, and its rather large floral bractlets. By comparison, P. pensylvanica leaflets are more deeply cut, nearly to the midvein, the larger leaflets with fewer than 10 teeth/lobes per side, and bractlets are narrower.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Polk County.


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