Potentilla palustris

Swamp Cinquefoil

Swamp Cinquefoil, Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook
Swamp Cinquefoil
Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Potentilla, from the Latin, potentia, "might, force, power".
  • palustris, from the Latin, paluster, "marshy, boggy"
  • Swamp Cinquefoil, from the Latin, quinque, "five", and folium, "leaf", hence "five leaf"; and its preferred habitat. The Cinquefoils are a large and varied group of native plants.
  • Other common names include: Marsh Cinquefoil, Marsh Five-Finger, Purple Marshlocks, Swamp Potentilla, Còig-bhileach Uisge (Gaelic), Kråkklöver, Kärrklöver (Swe), Myrhatt (Nor), Kragefod (Dan), Kurjenjalka (Fin), Engjarós (Is), Sumpf-Blutauge (Ger), Soopihl, Soopihlakas, Varesejalg, Partsijalg, Partsivarbad (Est)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Rosidae
        • Order Rosales
          • Family Rosaceae, the Roses
            • Genus Potentilla (Comarum), the Cinquefoils
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 501615
  • Also known as Comarum palustre, Potentilla palustris var. parvifolia, Potentilla palustris var. villosa
  • The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) shows the accepted name to be Comarum palustre.


  • A creeping, deciduous, waterside shrublet
  • A ¼, ½, ¾, º, é
  • Leaves pinnate with 3-7 narrow leaflets; leaflets 1"-3" long, sharply saw-toothed
  • Stem reddish brown, low sprawling, vine-like to 24" or more in length.
  • Roots long rhizomes
  • Flowers red to purple, showy, about 1" diameter, blooming June - August
    • Sepals
    • Petals
    • Stamens
    • Pistils
    • Ovary superior (within blossom) inferior (below flower)
  • Fruit
  • Seed tiny, kidney- or ear-shaped, may have visible veins or ribs

Propagation: rhizomes, seeds

Prefers peat soils but will establish in moist sandy areas. Common in older cranberry bogs, along bed edges, swamps, streambanks, bogs and drainage ditches.


  • Identifiable as
  • Distinguished from
  • Field Marks


  • Alaska to Ontario, south to New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, and California.


  • Lake shores, marshy river and stream margins


  • Trees:
  • Shrubs:
  • Herbs:
  • Ground Covers:
  • Mammals:
  • Birds:




  • Sexually by seed
  • Flowers
  • Assexually by


  • By rhizome division,


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Sun
    • Soil
    • Water
    • Spacing
    • Fertilization
  • Size 12"-18"W x 12"-18"H
  • Growth rate
  • Good for
  • Cultivars include
    • variety 'Alba', with
  • Cultivars and species available by mail order from specialty suppliers or at local nurseries
  • Prefers constantly wet soils
  • Ideal for artificial bogs, naturalistic pond margins



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Last updated on 26 February, 2004