is a relatively common species, most often found in high elevation meadows and forest openings. Plants are usually somewhat taller than many other cinquefoils, reaching a height of 3 feet. Stems grow upright or at an angle, and they are sparsely to moderately hairy, as are the palmate leaves, which occur around the base and along the stem (1 to 4).
The toothed leaflets may be separate or slightly overlapping, and they are often curved upwards along the margins. Leaflet teeth are uneven in depth; the deepest are cut over half of the way to the midvein. The hairs on the undersurfaces of the leaflets are not as dense or as prominently silver colored as those of the similar potentilla pulcherrima
Flowers form sparse, flat-topped clusters, branching from the upper part of the stem. Flowers are centered on a ring of yellow stamens topped by heart-shaped anthers, around a group of thin, greenish-yellow styles. The flat-tipped yellow petals are generally touching or slightly overlapping, and about 0.4 inches in length. The green sepals are pointed, somewhat curved, and hairy.
There are four varieties of potentilla gracilis (owyheensis, gracilis, fastigiata, elmeri, flabelliformis), differentiated by leaflet divisions, leaflet hairiness and petiole hairiness.