Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
A rather uncommon plant, Hipp's cinquefoil has been collected across most of North Dakota, but seems to be absent from our south-central counties. Elsewhere, the plant occurs from southern Alberta and Saskatchewan to Arizona and New Mexico.
Hipp's cinquefoil is perennial from a heavy branched caudex (toughened stem base). Plants are usually about a foot tall, with several stems. Basal leaves are numerous and larger than those on the upper stem. Leaves have 7 to 9 leaflets arranged digitately (like fingers on a hand). Leaflets are usually greenish on the upper surface and gray-hairy below. The yellow flowers are numerous, with petals only about 1/4 to 1/2-inch long. The tiny achenes (seeds) are greenish-yellow.
Look for Hipp's cinquefoil during June on dry native grassland. Grazing by livestock seems to have little effect on the abundance of this plant. The leaves and roots of many Potentillas are used in teas and medicines, but none of the references available to me mention any economic uses for the species discussed here.
The cinquefoils (meaning "five-leaved") are members of the rose family (Rosaceae). Rose is an ancient Latin name. The family contains about 3,000 species, and includes dozens of horticulturally and agriculturally important plants such as mountain-ash, spiraea, pear, apple, cherry, and strawberry. The generic name Potentilla is a diminutive of potens, "powerful," originally applied to another cinquefoil for its reputed medicinal powers. The distinguished German botanist Johann Georg Christian Lehmann (1792-1860), director of the botanic garden at Hamburg, described Hipp's cinquefoil for science in 1830, dedicating the specific name to his friend Charles Friedrich Hipp. Lehmann was an authority on Potentilla and several other genera.