Potentilla anserina - Silverweed


"Potentilla anserina is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles, self. The plant is self-fertile. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure." [PFAF]

Species Mentioned: Potentilla anserine ssp; including P. anserina ssp. Pacifica. [Turner, Kuhnlein] Potentilla anserina = Argentina anserina & A. argentea.[Harrington]


Edible Uses

The roots of this plant have often been utilized for food in various parts of its range, particularly by the North American Indians. In western Scotland they are said to have supported the entire population of certain areas for several months, in times of acute emergency.[Harrington] "Root - raw or cooked[66, 74, 183]. It can also be dried and ground into a powder then used in soups etc or mixed with cereals[5, 12, 13, 54]. A nice taste, crisp and nutty with a somewhat starchy flavour[85, 183]. The roots are rather thin, though perhaps their size cold be improved in cultivation[K]." [PFAF]

"(Potentilla anserina) The roots of silverweed were a marginal or famine food in the Scottish Highlands (Grigson. 1955), and in Ireland (Drury. 1984), and they were known as a food of the fairies, too (MacGregor). The roots were roasted or boiled (Ferneie), or even eaten raw, or they could be ground into meal to make porridge, and also a kind of bread (Drury. 1984). Perhaps not so marginal, for Carmichael says that it was used a lot before the potato was introduced; it was cultivated, so it grew quite large. Records of cultivation go back to prehistoric times, and the Anglo-Saxons are known to have grown silverweed as a root crop (Jordan). Particularly remembered for the cultivation of Brisgein (its Gaelic name) was an area in North Uist, Outer Hebrides, where a man could sustain himself on a square of ground of his own length (Carmichael). The Gaelic Bliadhna nan Brisdeinan means Year of the Silverweed roots. This year was shortly after Culloden, and is remembered in Tiree as a year of great scarcity. The land had been neglected in previous years because of the state of the country, and the silverweed sprang up in the furrows, and people made meal of them (Campbell. 1902), the “seventh bread” (MacGregor). Martin records the use on Tiree, as does Duncan. Children were still digging it up in recent times. They know that putting the roots for a moment on red hot cinders makes them swell a little, and makes them taste sweeter, rather like parsnips (C P Johnson)." [DPL Watts]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Contemporary medical herbalists believe that silverweed's main medicinal value lies in its astringency. It is less astringent than the related P. erecta, but it has a gentler action within the gastro-intestinal tract[254]." [PFAF] "The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Potentilla anserina Silverweed for diarrhoea, inflammation of the mouth and pharynx, premenstrual syndrome (see [302] for critics of commission E)." [PFAF]

"A compress made from the chopped herb is said to be good for piles (Thomson. 1978), and a strong infusion will stop their bleeding (Wickham). It has been used for stomach cramp (Fernie), and a decoction is claimed to be a cure for mouth ulcers (Wickham). Boiled in salted water, it “dissolves clotted and congealed bloud in such as are hurt or bruised by falling from some high place” (Gerard)." [DPL Watts]

Medicinal Use

Medicinal Parts: "The medicinal parts are leaves and flowers, whole or macerated, collected during or shortly before the flowering season and dried."
"Characteristics: The plant has an almond-like fragrance and dry taste."
Production: "Potentilla herb consists of the fresh or dried leaf and flowers of Potentilla anserina harvested shortly before or during flowering, as well as its preparations."
Tannins (5 to 10%): chiefly ellagitannins
Flavonoids: including quercitrin
Hydroxycoumarins: umbelliferone, scopoletin
"The drug is astringent because of the tannin concentration. On isolated rat uterus a paralyzing effect was proven which is due to the presence of ammonium salts. The empirical evidence of a spasmolytic effect in dysmenorrhea could not be definitively proven."
"Unproven Uses: In folk medicine, Potentilla is used externally as a wash for poorly healing wounds."
"Mode of Administration: Potentilla is available in commercial forms for oral intake. It is also available in crude and powder forms."
"Preparation: To prepare a tea, pour boiling water over 2 gm finely cut drug, strain after 10 minutes (1 teaspoon corresponds to approximately 0.7 gm drug)."
"Daily Dosage: 4 to 6 gm of drug; Tea: 1 cup freshly prepared several times a day between meals."
"Storage: Protect from light and moisture."[PDR]


ANSERINA, SILVERWEED (Potentilla anserina L.) ++ [HMH Duke]
Select Activities (Anserina)
Antiallergic (1; BIS; FNF); Antiseptic (1; CEB; FNF); Antispasmodic (1; HH2; PH2); Antiviral (1; HH2); Astringent (1; PHR; PH2; PNC); Hypotensive (1; BIS; FNF); Immunostimulant (1; BIS); Inteferonogenic (1; BIS; FNF); Tonic (2; KOM; PNC); Uterotonic (1; BIS; PHR).
Select Indications (Anserina)
  • Cancer (1; JLH);
  • Cancer, colon (1; JLH);
  • Cancer, intestine (1; JLH);
  • Cancer, liver (1; JLH);
  • Cancer, spleen (1; JLH);
  • Cancer, stomach (1; JLH);
  • Cramp (1; HH2; MAD; PH2);
  • Diarrhea (2; KOM; PHR; PH2);
  • Dysmenorrhea (2; KOM; MAD; PHR; PH2);
  • Enterosis (f; JLH; MAD);
  • Gastrosis (f; JLH; MAD);
  • Hepatosis (f; JLH; MAD);
  • High Blood Pressure (1; BIS; FNF);
  • Infection (1; FNF; HH2);
  • Inflammation (2; JLH; KOM);
  • Pharyngosis (2; KOM; PH2);
  • PMS (2; PHR;PH2);
  • Sore Throat (2; KOM; MAD);
  • Stomatosis (2; BIS; CEB; KOM; PH2);
  • Wound (f; CEB; PH2).
Dosages (Anserina)
2–6 g (1 tsp = 0.7–1.4 g) (BIS); 4–6 g herb/day (2 g/cup tea) (KOM; PH2).(2 tsp = ~2.8 g).
Contraindications, Interactions, and Side Effects (Anserina)
Class 1 (AHP; JAD). “Hazards and/or side effects not known for proper therapeutic dosages” (PH2). No contraindicationsknown (BIS). Commission E reports no contraindications, adverse effects, or interactions, except for gastric irritation (KOM). Other sources report adverse effects of GI disturbances (AEH; PH2). Sensitive individuals may experience stomach upset and vomiting (BIS). The warning with which CAN lambast uva-ursi should as well apply to other herbs with almost as much tannin: “In view of the high tannin content, prolonged use may cause chronic liver impairment.” (CAN). Containing tannin, its extracts might be expected to show antiallergic, antihypertensive, antiviral, immunostimulant and interferon-generating activities (BIS). Catechins have been specifically recommended for colitis (Brown et al.,1997).

Nutritional Information

Nutritionally, silverweed roots are high in iron, sulfur, calcium, and magnesium. [Schofield].

SilverweedPotentilla pacifica [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Part:RootPer 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)-Ash (g)1.4Potassium (mg)-
Water (g)77Thiamine (mg)-Magnesium (mg)49.1
Protein (g)1.6Riboflavin (mg)-Calcium (mg)41
Fat (g)0.3Molybdenum (mg)<0.1Phosphorus (mg)53
Carbohydrate (g)19.5Vitamin C (mg)-Sodium (mg)-
Crude Fiber (g)-Vitamin A (RE)-Iron (mg)9.1
Zinc (mg)0.5Manganese (mg)0.9Copper (mg)0.2
Part:Root (Steamed)Per 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)132Ash (g)0.9Potassium (mg)-
Water (g)66Thiamine (mg)0.01Magnesium (mg)60
Protein (g)3.1Riboflavin (mg)0.01Calcium (mg)37
Fat (g)0.6Niacin (mg)2.4Phosphorus (mg)109
Carbohydrate (g)29.5Vitamin C (mg)-Sodium (mg)65
Crude Fiber (g)9.5Vitamin A (RE)0.2Iron (mg)3.5
Zinc (mg)1.1Manganese (mg)0.8Copper (mg)1.1


"A very easily grown plant, succeeding in almost any soil, thriving in moist clays, though rather dwarfed in dry dusty soils[4]. It grows best in a well-drained loam, preferring a position in full sun but tolerating shade[1]. Prefers an alkaline soil but tolerates a slightly acid soil[200]. Silverweed was formerly cultivated for its edible root[5, 67]. It is still possibly cultivated in parts of Scotland (1992)[183]. This plant spreads vigorously by its running roots and can be very invasive[1, 4]. It grows well in a meadow, or places where the grass is only cut occasionally[K]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233]." [PFAF]


"Seed - sow early spring or autumn in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. Division in spring. Division is also very easy at almost any time the plant is in growth. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer." [PFAF]

Additional Notes

Aerial Part - Essential oil - Content, %: 0.28 [1] Lipids Content, %: 2.0 [1] [LLCEOPS]

Potentilla anserina Linn. Rosaceae. "Temperate regions. In some of the Hebrides, says Lightfoot, the roots have often supported the inhabitants for months together. Boiled or roasted, they taste like parsnips." [Sturtevant EPW]

Potentilla Sp.

  1. Potentilla anglica - trailing cinquefoil = exotic [E-flora]
  2. Potentilla argentea - silvery cinquefoil [E-flora]
  3. Potentilla arguta - white cinquefoil [E-flora]
  4. Potentilla diversifolia - diverse-leaved cinquefoil [E-flora]
  5. Potentilla drummondii - Drummond's cinquefoil = Native [E-flora]
  6. Potentilla flabellifolia - fan-leaved cinquefoil = Native [E-flora]
  7. Potentilla gracilis - graceful cinquefoil = Native [E-flora]
  8. Potentilla intermedia L - intermediate cinquefoil [E-flora]
  9. Potentilla nivea - snow cinquefoil & var pentaphylla - five-leaved cinquefoil [E-flora]
  10. Potentilla norvegica - Norwegian cinquefoil = Native [E-flora]
  11. Potentilla recta - sulphur cinquefoil = exotic [E-flora]
  12. Potentilla rivalis - brook cinquefoil = Native [E-flora]
  13. Potentilla villosa - villous cinquefoil = Native [E-flora]

Potentilla argentea - silvery cinquefoil

Status: exotic [E-flora]

"General: Perennial herb from a heavy woody stem-base; stems several, tufted, spreading to erect, 10-50 cm tall, very leafy, freely branched, white-woolly." [IFBC-E-flora2]

Habitat / Range: "Dry open ground and waste places in the lowland, steppe and lower montane zones; locally frequent in S BC, especially east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; introduced from Europe. " [IFBC-E-flora2]

Potentilla arguta - white cinquefoil

General: Perennial herb from a short rhizome and branched stem-base; stems several, erect, 30-100 cm tall, strongly glandular-hairy.

Habitat / Range Dry to moist meadows, thickets, rocky grassy slopes and open forests in the steppe and montane zones; frequent throughout BC, except along the coast; N to AK, E to PQ and S to OR, AZ, NM, OK and NJ. [IFBC-E-flora3]

Potentilla diversifolia - diverse-leaved cinquefoil

Status: Native [E-flora]

General: Perennial herb from a short stout rhizome and branched stem-base; stems slender, usually several, tufted, spreading to erect, 10-40 cm tall, smooth toward the base, appressed-hairy above.

Habitat / Range Mesic to dry meadows, tundra, rocky slopes, gravel bars, grasslands and open forests in the montane to alpine zones; common throughout BC, except rare on the coast; N to S AK and YT; E to SK and S to UT, NM and CA. [IFBC-E-flora4]

Potentilla drummondii - Drummond's cinquefoil

General: Perennial herb from a short thick rhizome and branched stem-base; stems 1 to several, tufted, spreading to erect, 15-60 cm tall, greenish, thinly long-hairy to nearly smooth.

Habitat / Range Moist to wet, open rocky slopes, meadows and open forests in the montane to alpine zones; infrequent throughout BC south of 55oN; E to W AB and S to N CA. [IFBC-E-flora5]

Potentilla egedii - coast silverweed

Perennial herb from a long, strawberry-like stolon or runner, rooting and producing leaf-clusters at the nodes, smooth to sparsely appressed-silky on the stolons.

Habitat/Range: Wet tidal marshes, estuarine meadows, brackish streambanks and moist beaches in the lowland zone; common along the coast in BC, N to AK and S to CA. [IFBC-E-flora6]

Potentilla flabellifolia - fan-leaved cinquefoil

General: Perennial herb from a creeping rhizome and branched stem-base; stems several, tufted, ascending to erect, 10-30 cm tall, nearly smooth to short-hairy.


Moist meadows, heath and scree slopes in the montane to alpine zones; locally frequent in the Coast-Cascade Mountains south of 51degreeN, rare in extreme SC BC; E to SW AB and S to MT, ID and CA. [IFBC-E-flora7]

Potentilla gracilis - graceful cinquefoil

General: Perennial herb from a thick, scaly, branched stem-base; stems several, tufted, erect or decumbent at the base, 30-80 cm tall, often branched, appressed- to spreading-hairy.

Notes: Three varieties occur in BC

Habitat/Range: Dry to moist meadows, grasslands, rocky slopes, open forests, and roadsides and waste places in the lowland to montane zones; common in S BC except rare on the coast (var. gracilis), rare in BC N of 55degreeN; N to AK, E to SK and S to CA and MX. [IFBC-E-flora8]

Potentilla intermedia L - intermediate cinquefoil

Status: Introduced. [IFBC-E-flora9]

General: Biennial or perennial herb from a thick stem-base; stems several, tufted, ascending, 20-50 cm tall, branched, greyish-soft-hairy.

Habitat/Range: Dry to moist disturbed ground, roadsides and waste places in the lowland and montane zones; locally frequent in SE BC, rare in SW BC (Sechelt Peninsula) and Vancouver area; introduced from Eurasia. [IFBC-E-flora9]

Potentilla nivea - snow cinquefoil & var pentaphylla - five-leaved cinquefoil

Status: Native [E-flora]

General: 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).

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.

Notes: Two varieties occur in BC:


  1. [E-flora]
    1. [1] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla anserina&redblue=Both&lifeform=7 [Accessed: 12/1/2014]
    2. [2] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla%20argentea&redblue=Both&lifeform=2 [Accessed: 03/12/2018]
    3. [3] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla%20arguta&redblue=Both&lifeform=7 [Accessed: 03/12/2018]
    4. [4] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla%20diversifolia&redblue=Both&lifeform=7 [Accessed: 03/12/2018]
    5. [5] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla%20drummondii&redblue=Both&lifeform=2 [Accessed: 03/12/2018]
    6. [6] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla%20egedii&redblue=Both&lifeform=7 [Accessed: 03/12/2018]
    7. [7] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla%20flabellifolia&redblue=Both&lifeform=2 [Accessed: 03/12/2018]
    8. [8] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla%20gracilis&redblue=Both&lifeform=7 [Accessed: 03/12/2018]
    9. [9] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla%20intermedia&redblue=Both&lifeform=7 [Accessed: 03/12/2018]
    10. [10] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Potentilla%20nivea&redblue=Both&lifeform=2 [Accessed: 03/12/2018]
  2. [PFAF] Potentilla anserina , http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Potentilla+anserina, Accessed May 29, 2014

Page last modified on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 9:27 AM