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Common name: Slender Cinquefoil
Scientific name: Potentilla gracilis
Duration: Perennial
Family: Rose family (Rosaceae)
Habitat: Moist to seasonally dry, full sun to partial shade, moderate drought tolerance but water use is low; this plant is not particular about soil type, as long as the site is well-drained
Blooming period: Late spring to early summer
Color: Yellow
Height: 2-3'
Planting Time: Fall to Early Spring; 30- to 120-day cool/moist stratification required

Pronunciation: Potentilla gracilis (po-ten-TIL-la GRAS-il-is)

Other common names: northwest cinquefoil, graceful cinquefoil

Forage Value: Slender cinquefoil is an important nectar/pollen source both European and native honey bees, butterflies and other insects.

Historic Uses: The Okanogan-Colville tribes made an infusion of the roots to treat a wide range of maladies: blood issues, general aches and pains, diarrhea, gonorrhea and to wash sores. The Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) people used a poultice of the leaves and roots to lessen pain from wounds.

Miscellany: Slender cinquefoil is commonly confused with its European relative, sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) which is noxious in many Western states. Unlike sulfur cinquefoil, slender cinquefoil rarely forms dense patches. This flowering plant is great in ornamental gardens, especially butterfly gardens. Deer are not fond of them.

Potentilla is a Latin diminutive term from potens which means "powerful" and refers to the strong medicinal properties that some species within this genus have.
gracilis is a Latin term meaning slender, slight or graceful.


The lowly cinquefoil is a rose,
A fact that any botanist knows,
Though it seems to me a mystery
How such a lowly plant can be
Sibling to a flower that grows
As glorious as a garden rose.
The bigger question does remain:
How you pronounce that funny name?
Does it 'sink' or does it 'sank'
As it wanders up the bank?
And as it creep across the soil
What pray tell does it foil?

Jack Sanders

Further Resources:
USDA Plant Fact Sheet for Slender Cinquefoil

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