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Botanical Latin: Potentilla

Potentilla (po ten TILL a) derived from Latin potens, powerful + suffix – illa, little.

Potentilla nepalensis

Potentilla nepalensis

Potentilla is the genus name for about five hundred plants known for their palmately compound leaves that resemble those of strawberries. The flowers appear in spring and have a tuft of stamens surrounded by five petals in yellow, red, rose, or white. The fruits are not edible. Most potentillas do well on lean to average soil and full sun to partial shade. The genus includes both weeds and plants that have horticultural importance.

Potentilla recta

Potentilla recta

The most common Potentilla in US gardens is P. fructicosa, a small woody deciduous shrub but there are many good herbaceous perennials that are popular such as ruby cinquefoil (P. atrosanguinea), Nepal cinquefoil (P. nepalensis) and sulfur cinquefoil (P. erecta).   Some members of the genus have been used in herbal medicine. P. erecta has been used as a remedy for inflammation, gastrointestinal disorders, tooth aches and frightenting away witches, P. reptans for chills and fever, and two species have been used by the Chinese for diabetes. In times of famine, Potentilla roots have been boiled and eaten. The roots have also been used to dye leather or wool.