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

Potentilla nivea L. var. nivea
snow cinquefoil
Rosaceae (Rose family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants
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Distribution of Potentilla nivea var. nivea
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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


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 arenosa (Turcz.) Juz.
Potentilla nivea subsp. fallax A.E. Porsild
Potentilla nivea var. tomentosa Nilss.-Ehle
Potentilla prostrata Rottb.
Potentilla prostrata subsp. floccosa Soják, nom. inq.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References