ROSE FAMILY - Rosaceae: Five-finger; Common Cinquefoil

Potentilla canadensis

Flowers--Yellow, 1/4 to 1/2 in. across, growing singly on long peduncles from the leaf axils. Five petals longer than the 5 acute calyx lobes with 5 linear bracts between them; about 20 stamens; pistils numerous, forming a head. Stem: Spreading over ground by slender runners or ascending. Leaves: 5-fingered, the digitate, saw-edged leaflets (rarely 3 or 4) spreading from a common point, petioled; some in a tuft at base.

Preferred Habitat--Dry fields, roadsides, hills, banks.

Flowering Season--April-August.

Distribution--Quebec to Georgia, and westward beyond the Mississippi.

Every one crossing dry fields in the eastern United States and Canada at least must have trod on a carpet of cinquefoil (cinque = five, feuilles = leaves), and have noticed the bright little blossoms among the pretty foliage, possibly mistaking the plant for its cousin, the trefoliate barren strawberry. Both have flowers like miniature wild yellow roses. During the Middle Ages, when misdirected zeal credited almost any plant with healing virtues for every ill that flesh is heir to, the cinquefoils were considered most potent remedies, hence their generic name.