Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Common Cinquefoil - Potentilla simplex   Michaux
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Section 6 » Order Rosales » Family Rosaceae
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AuthorMichaux
DistributionStatewide, with some gaps in the range such as in parts of the upper Piedmont. Nonetheless, likely present in all 100 counties.

This is a very widespread species across the Eastern U.S. and Canada. It ranges south to northwestern FL and eastern TX.
AbundanceCommon in nearly all of the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, but only fairly common in much of the Piedmont foothills. Frequent to common in the mountains. In general, it is somewhat less numerous in the state than is P. canadensis, though it is more common than that one closer to the coast.
HabitatThis is a species of open, often weedy places, such as roadsides, clearings, wooded borders, fields, and other open sites. It favors somewhat moist places, as opposed to the "drier-soil" P. canadensis, though both are often found in the same places.
PhenologyBlooms from April to June, and fruits from April to July.
IdentificationThis and P. canadensis are similar species, both growing close to the ground and eventually becoming prostrate. This species can grow to 1-2 feet long, and it has basal and stem leaves that are 5-parted. Each leaflet is finger-like -- about 2 inches long, narrowly elliptic to oblanceolate, strongly toothed along the entire margin, and about 3-4 times longer than wide. P. canadensis has shorter leaflets, barely 1 inch long, wedge-shaped, and straight and untoothed on the lower half. Each has a bright yellow flower, with 5 petals (notched at the apex) and a flower spread about 1 inch across, at most leaf nodes. In this species, the lowest/first flower comes off the second node, as opposed to the first node in P. canadensis. However, the leaf shape should be suitable for identification, as this one has longer "fingers" that are completely toothed, whereas the other has short leaflets with straight and untoothed lower portions.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Old-field Five-fingers, Old-field Cinquefoil
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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