E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Potentilla nivea L.
snow cinquefoil
Rosaceae (Rose family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Virginia Skilton  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #7243)

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Distribution of Potentilla nivea
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Potentilla nivea var. nivea

Species Information

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Perennial herb from a short rhizome and branched stem-base; stems few to several, loosely tufted, ascending to erect, 5-30 cm tall, woolly-hairy and often also cobwebby, rarely long-soft-hairy as well (var. pentaphylla).
Basal leaves few to numerous, palmately to somewhat pinnately compound, the stalks cobwebby-woolly; leaflets 3 to 5, egg-shaped to oblong, 0.5-3 cm long, coarsely blunt-toothed or cleft halfway to the midrib, greenish and silky-hairy above, white-woolly and rarely also long-hairy beneath; stem leaves alternate, 1 or 2, short-stalked or unstalked, reduced upwards.
Inflorescence a compact to open cluster of 1 to 9 stalked flowers; corollas yellow, bowl-shaped, the petals 5, heart-shaped, 4-7 mm long, shallowly notched at the tip; calyces silky-hairy to somewhat woolly, 5-lobed, the lobes lanceolate, 3-5 mm long, alternating with 5 linear-lanceolate bractlets shorter than the calyx-lobes; ovaries superior, the styles warty-thickened at the base; stamens usually 20.
Achenes, several to many, clustered, lopsided-egg-shaped, smooth, 1-2 mm long.
Two varieties occur in BC:

1. Leaflets 3, coarsely toothed; the more common variety.............. var. nivea

1. Leaflets 3 to 5, cleft halfway to midrib; rare in BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains............... var. pentaphylla Lehm.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Dry to mesic open grassy slopes, meadows, tundra, rock outcrops and sandy or gravelly benches in the montane to alpine zones; common (var. nivea) or rare (var. pentaphylla) throughout BC, in and east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; circumboreal, N to AK, E to PQ and S to NV and CO; Greenland, Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Potentilla nivea

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 39 2041 2661
Slope Gradient (%) 0 29 85
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
90 211 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 2 6
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(26), BAFA(19), cma(1), ESSF(18), ICH(2), IDF(1), IMA(8), SWB(3)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Potentilla chamissonis Hultén
Potentilla kuznetzovii (Govor.) Juz.
Potentilla nivea subsp. chamissonis (Hultén) Hiitonen

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References