Potentilla argentea

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaRosaceaePotentillaPotentilla argentea


A perennial herb of dry, freely-draining, gravelly or sandy soils, found in open grassy swards on commons, in pastures, on banks, in pits and on tracks and waste ground. Reproduction is by seed, but it does not readily colonise new sites. Lowland.



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 3

Reaction (Ellenberg): 5

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16

Annual Precipitation (mm): 704

Height (cm): 30

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 323

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 5

Atlas Change Index: -0.78

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Potentilla argentea L.

Hoary cinquefoil

Status: not scarce


This is a plant of dry, warm, sandy, free-draining soils, found on open short grass swards and on slopes and banks. Its associates are mainly low grasses and herbs and include Claytonia perfoliata, Festuca brevipila, F. ovina, F. rubra and Genista tinctoria. In years when rabbit populations are reduced, it may be crowded out by Arrhenatherum elatius and Dactylis glomerata. Provided that open spaces are available, this plant is also found near low bushes of Ulex europaeus and may benefit from nitrogen released from the root nodules of Ulex.

It is a perennial herb which reproduces by seed. The number of plants in an area is very variable and may be affected by the spread of more competitive species. Whatever the precise regulation of successful reproduction, this plant is a survivor. It is recorded by Relhan (1785) "among furze at Hildersham" and in the same place by Babington (1860). Trist (1988) reported that it is "annually variable in quantity" there. It does not readily colonise new sites.

Its distribution in eastern England, particularly on the red crag and coarse sands of Breckland, indicates a preference for light soils of heathland and uncultivated areas not subject to disturbance. It is probably in decline through loss of suitable habitats. 

P. argentea occurs throughout most of Europe, to western and central Asia. It is also found in the northern United States, westwards to Kansas.


P. J. O. Trist

Atlas text references

Atlas (121c)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.
Werner PA, Soule JD
1976.  The biology of Canadian weeds. 18. Potentilla recta L., P. norvegica L. and P. argentea L. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 56:591-603.