Transformational Gardening

Disclaimer: Foraging can be fun, rewarding and provide health benefits. As a novice forager, I will be sharing my foraging experiences. However, in order to be safe, always consult with local foraging experts and guidebooks before beginning foraging. Children should learn to forage safely by being guided by experienced adults. Never ingest anything unless you are certain of the identification and safety of the plant. Some plant species are inedible and some are poisonous.

Cinquefoil Identification (New Hampshire)


Identification Chart

Sulphur Cinquefoil (Rough-Fruited Cinquefoil) (Potentilla recta) Sulphur Cinquefoil is a larger plant with erect unbranched stems, 5-9 narrowly-oval, deeply-toothed leaflets and there are long hairs on the stems and leaflets. The flower is a sulphur (light yellow) color rather than the deeper yellow of other cinquefoil flowers. Plant height: 12 - 24 inches.
Common Cinquefoil (Oldfield Cinquefoil) (Potentilla simplex) Flowers on solitary stem arising out of a leaf axil. The first flower arises from the 2nd leaf axil from the bottom (This differentiates Common Cinquefoil from Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis) which has the flower arise from the 1st leaf axil from the bottom). While this plant can be tall, often times the stem droops or folds down over other plants.

Leaves are on separate stem from the flower. Leaves are alternate up the stem. They are palmately divided (all leaflets emerge from same point). For the Common Cinquefoil, the leaf stem is redish. The stem and leaf petioles are slightly hairy (appressed hairs). The leaflets have teeth for 3/4ths of their length. (Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil leaflets have teeth for only 1/2 of their length.) Some Common Cinquefoil leaflets have teeth for only 1/2 of their length, but measuring the upper leaflets seems to more consistently show that the teeth run for nearly 3/4ths of their length. The stipules (leaf-like appendage at the base of the petiole/leaf stalk) are linear-lanceolate and rolled. Plant height: 6 - 20 inches.
Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis) Differences between Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis) and Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex):
  • Flower stem arises from the axil of the 2nd leaf for Common Cinquefoil and from the leaf axil of the first leaf for Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil. (Audubon Society field Guide)
  • Margin teeth do not go below the top 1/2 of the leaflet for Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil and are toothed for approximately 3/4 of their length for Common Cinquefoil. (Newcomb’s, Clemants & Gracie)
  • Leaflets for Common Cinquefoil are elliptical to somewhat wedge-shaped (obovate) while the leaflets for Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil are very obovate, sharting out very thin at the bottom and relatively very wide at the tip. (Peterson)
  • Hairs on flower stem (peduncle) and leaf stem (petiole) are dense and spreading for Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil and are appressed for Common Cinquefoil. (Weeds of the Northeast, Clemants & Gracie) Apparently, Common Cinquefoil can vary anywhere from nearly hairless to appressed hairs.
  • Leaflets for Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil grow up to 1-1/2 inches (4 cm) long and for Common Cinquefoil the leaflets grow up to 2-1/2 inches (6.5 cm) long. (Audubon Society field guide)
  • The stipules (appendages at the base of the leaf) of the basal leaves are oblong-lanceolate and flat for Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil and are linear-lanceolate and rolled for Common Cinquefoil. (Weeds of the Northeast)
  • The rhizomes (underground stems) for Common Cinquefoil grow up to 3 inches (8 cm) long while the rhizomes for Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil only grow up to 3/4 inches (2 cm) long. (Weeds of the Northeast)
  • Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil bloom from April until June while Common Cinquefoil blooms from May until July. NH Wildflowers Color Thumbnails: Yellow
Silver Cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea) 5-7 leaflets per leaf. Dense mat of silvery-white hairs on the underside of leaves. The leaflets have a bird‘s-foot like toothing. Plant height: 6 - 12 inches.
Norwegian Cinquefoil (Rough Cinquefoil) (Potentilla norvegica) Norwegian Cinquefoil is the only cinquefoil in New Hampshire with 3 leaflets per leaf. The leaflets are heavily-toothed and, at up to 3 inches, almost as long as Sulphur Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) leaflets. The plant tends to have significant branching and a fairly dense pack of leaves compared to the other cinquefoils.

The 5-petal yellow flower has big spaces between the petals and the green sepals behind the flower petals are as long or longer than the flower petals.
It is found in clearings, roadsides and weedy places. I found it in a field with Oxeye Daisy, White Campion, Red Clover and Flat-topped Aster.
Dwarf Mountain Cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana) Plant height: 1/2 - 2 inches.
Downy Cinquefoil (Intermediate Cinquefoil) (Potentilla intermedia) Yellow flower. 5 cinquefoil leaflets, but the end of the leaflets have a similar shape to the end of Mugwort leaflets. Plant height: 8 - 30 inches. See:
Pennsylvania Cinquefoil (Potentilla pensylvanica) (Synonym: Potentilla pectinata) Yellow flowers with unusual depth (like a rose) for a cinquefoil. See:
Tall Cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta) White flower with yellow center. Tall like the Sulphur Cinquefoil, but the basal leaves are pinnately compound; leaflets 7-11.