Cinquefoil, Sulphur, Potentilla recta

Life Cycle



Reproducing mainly by seed.


Usually multiple-stemmed (Figure 1) and tall (20 - 80 cm).


Green on both sides, palmately compound with usually 5 to 7 narrow, coarsely toothed, hairy leaflets at the tip of the leafstalk (Figure 2) and a pair of stipules at the base of each leafstalk. The first 2 or 3 true leaves on a seedling plant are not divided.

Flowers and Fruit

Flowers large, 2-2.5cm across with deep yellow petals which are longer than the green sepals (Figure 3). Seeds prominently wrinkly-ridged. Flowers from early June until fall.

Roots and Underground Structures

Course, fibrous root system.


Rough cinquefoil occurs throughout Ontario in pastures, forage crops, meadows, waste areas, roadsides, and occasionally in gardens and cultivated fields.

Distinguishing Features

It is distinguished by its 5 to 7 leaflets, that are green on both surfaces and palmately arranged at the end of a leafstalk (Figure 2). Also distinguished by its large, deep yellow flowers with petals longer than sepals (Figure 3).

Forage Quality

Sulphur cinquefoil is largely unpalatable to livestock thereby reducing forage quality.

Often Mistaken For

1) Rough cinquefoil, but Sulphur cinquefoil is a perennial and therefore has a more prominent root system. 2) Marijuana, because of its palmately compound leaves, but Marijuana is a much taller plant up to 1.2-3m tall, with much larger palmately compound leaves, each having 5-11 leaflets that are long and slender (up to 15cm long and 1.5cm wide) with coarse teeth. Sulphur cinquefoil is also hairy, while Marijuana lacks prominent hairs.

Figure #1.

Sulphur cinquefoil. A. Plant. B. Seedling with 2 true leaves. C. Seedling with 4th leaf trifoliolate.

Figure #2.

Figure #3.

Figure #4.

Figure #5.