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

Potentilla villosa Pall. ex Pursh
villous cinquefoil
Rosaceae (Rose family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Dave Ingram  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #2663)

E-Flora BC Static Map
Distribution of Potentilla villosa
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The genus Potentilla in North America has been reexamined taxonomically for work on the Flora of North America. From this, Elven and Murray (2008) consider Potentilla villosa to be of more restricted, coastal distribution in British Columbia than shown in the above map. They say "Potentilla villosa is distinctly coastal with very few records above 50 msm, and it is apparently without a preference for base-rich substrates. The southernmost occurrences are in northwestern Washington, the northernmost in western Alaska south of Seward Peninsula. It is much more restricted in the north than mapped by Hultén...it shows a preference for coastal cliffs. (1968)".

Source: Elven, Reider and David Murray. 2008. The Potentilla villosa-uniflora group in northwestern North America. Botanical Electronic News #390, March 12, 2008.

Species Information

Click on the image below to view an expanded illustration for this species.

Perennial herb from a short rhizome and stout branched stem-base covered with dark-brown remains of old leaf-bases; stems several, tufted, ascending to erect, 5-30 cm tall, often branching above the middle, spreading-long-hairy and usually woolly beneath the long hairs, at least above.
Basal leaves several, palmately compound, stalked, the stalks long-spreading-hairy and woolly; leaflets 3, rather thick and leathery, broadly egg- to fan-shaped, 0.5-2 cm long, coarsely blunt-toothed on the upper half, greenish and silky to nearly smooth above, greyish-white-woolly and with overlying long silky hairs on the lower surface, the veins usually evident; stem leaves alternate, 1 or 2, nearly unstalked, not much reduced.
Inflorescence of 1 to 5, stalked, terminal flowers in fairly open clusters; corollas yellow, bowl-shaped, the petals 5, heart-shaped, 5-12 mm long, shallowly notched at the tip; calyces silky-hairy, 5-lobed, the lobes triangular, 3-7 mm long, alternating with 5 elliptic-oval bractlets about as long as the calyx-lobes; ovaries superior, the styles slightly warty-thickened at the base; stamens usually 20.
Achenes, several to many, clustered, lopsided-egg-shaped, 1-2 mm long, smooth or somewhat net-veined.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Dry to mesic coastal bluffs, beaches, meadows and rocky slopes in all zones; common throughout all but SC BC, especially along the coast; amphiberingian, N to AK, E to AB and S to WA; E Asia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Potentilla villosa

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) 0 1962 2705
Slope Gradient (%) 0 21 120
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
20 198 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 1 8
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(31), BAFA(48), CMA(2), CWH(5), ESSF(35), ICH(1), IDF(1), IMA(13), MH(1), MS(1), SWB(4)


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 nivea var. villosa (Pall. ex Pursh) Regel & Tiling
Potentilla villosa var. parviflora C.L. Hitchc.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References