Common Cinquefoil (Five-Finger)

Potentilla simplex
Rosaceae (roses)

A low perennial with stems that at first are erect, but soon spread out and root at the tips. It often forms loose colonies. Flowers yellow, on long peduncles arising from a leaf node, with rounded petals interspersed by linear sepals. Blooms April–June. Leaves 5-divided, oblanceolate, toothed, with the leaflets often curled inward when young.

Similar species: There are 7 species of Potentilla recorded for Missouri, 2 of which are introduced. This species is distinguished by its solitary, long-stalked flowers; stem leaves often produced in clusters on short side branches; and the central leaflet usually twice as long as wide or wider.

Stem length: about 8 to 60 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Upland prairies, sand prairies, openings of mesic to dry upland forests, glades, savannas, tops of bluffs, banks of streams and rivers, and margins of sinkhole ponds; also pastures, old fields, fallow fields, crop fields, fencerows, old mines, old quarries, railroads, roadsides, and open, disturbed areas. Although this species seems rather weedy, it is a native wildflower.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Scattered nearly statewide, but uncommon or absent from the northwestern quarter of the state.
Human connections: 
The genus name, Potentilla, is from the Latin for “little potent one.” It refers to the historic medicinal uses of some of the 300 species of this genus.
Ecosystem connections: 
Bees, flies, butterflies, wasps, and other insects visit the flowers for nectar, pollen, or both. Rabbits and woodchucks eat the leaves.
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