Potentilla anserina : Silverweed


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Dicoteldonae (two seed-leaves)

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Genera: Potentilla (Cinquefoil) (Lat. potens=powerful; referring to the strengh of the medicine from some species)

Species: anserina (Lat. anser= goose; probably because geese are fond of it.)

Synonym(s): P.yukonensis, P.egedii ssp.yukonensis

English Name(s):

Silverweed, Silver Cinquefoil, Goose Tansy

First Nation Names:




  • All basal.
  • Pinnate.
  • Leaflets 5-17, main leaflets interspersed with smaller ones.
  • Leaflets oval to oblong in shape.
  • Margins coarsely serrate (toothed).
  • Upper surface green and more or less pubescent.
  • Under surface paler and somewhat pubescent to tomentos (woolly).
  • Leaflets 6-55mm long by 3-26mm wide.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Flowers are showy, perfect (bisexual) and solitary.
  • Scapes (stalks) leafless, glabrous (hairless) to pubescent, 3-25cm high.
  • Sepals 5, 3-8mm long glabrous to pubescent, alternating with small bracts.
  • Petals 5, 8-15mm long, yellow.


  • Fruit is a small, dry, seedlike, achene (nutlet).
  • Achenes 1.5-2mm long with a shallow furrow on the back.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • Geum rossii (Ross's Aven) which looks similar but lacks stolons, its flowering stems are erect, and its pinnate leaves have lobed rather than serrated leaflets.



Life Cycle:

  • Perennial.

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Blooms in early July.
  • Leaves deciduous (falling).


Animal Uses:

  • This plant provides food for many wildlife species.


  • Gravelly or sandy lakeshores or riverbanks, disturbed sites, and moist open grassy areas.
  • A common weed near settlements.




  • Flowers produce a bright yellow dye.
  • Plants are easily transplanted.


  • 5ml added to 250ml milk, scald and drink warm is said to be good for menstral cramps, colic, aid digestion, break a fever, or treat asthma or whooping cough.
  • To make a gargle to relieve sore throat, toothache, sore gums, or to help tighten loose teeth, 30g dried, crushed plant and 5ml alum is mixed with 500ml vinegar, boiled until volume is 2/3 original.


  • Roots are a good source of starch.
  • Roots in the spring are said to taste like parsnips, chestnuts, or sweet potatoes. They can be eaten raw or roasted, fried or boiled and served with butter.
  • Roots make an excellent salad or relish ingredient and can be dried for storage.

Traditional Gwich'in:





          Traditional Other:


          • In astrology Potentilla are said to be governed by Jupiter.
          • In the Victorian Language of Flowers these plants symbolized "beloved daughter" or " I claim, at least, your esteem".
          • Potentilla were said to flourish in the gardens of witches. One of few yellow flowers they cared for.



            • Have been used since the middle ages in the treatment of cancers.
            • It was also said to fix loose teath, relieve tooth ache, and to protect teeth and gums from scurvy.
            • Plant infusion was taken to increase urine flow and remove calcium deposits from the urinary passages.


            • Some native groups collected the roots in autumn or from exposed banks in winter as they were said to taste best in cold months.


            Plant from above showing runners

            Runners sending leaves up and roots down.

            Pinnate leaves with serrated leaflets.

            Illustration from: Illustrated flora of BC

            Range Maps

            World Range: Circumpolar, nonarctic; in N.A. from NL to AK, south to NY, ID, NM, and CA.

            Prov/State Abrev. List

            In Yukon: North to 64.30'N on Yukon River then disjunct to Porcupine River.

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