Short-leaved cinquefoil is an attractive perennial with prostrate rhizome-like scaly branches which form mats up to 20 cm in diameter. The herbage consists of short, fine hairs, often tipped with minute glands. Plants may also be mostly glabrous. The numerous flower stems range from 5-20 cm high, most of which are sparsely leafed. The basal leaves are more numerous, each with slender petioles which are generally longer than the length of the blades. The blades are pinnately-compound with 5-7 closely spaced leaflets. The leaflets have shapes varying from orbicular to obovate and fan-like and each measures from 6-10 mm long. The tips of the leaflets are shallowly incised once or twice with rounded teeth.
The inflorescence is an open, branching cyme of several flowers. The calyx is shallowly cupped with 5 ovate to oblong-lanceolate sepals which spread or slightly ascend. The individual sepals are 3-5 mm long and glandular, sometimes being covered with coarse, stiff hairs. The 5 yellow petals are broadly obovate with rounded to blunt or notched tips. Individual petals range from 5-8 mm long. There are usually 20 stamens surrounding numerous minute pistils.
Short-leaved cinquefoil may be found growing on rocky slopes on high mountains.
Short-leaved cinquefoil may be found from Grant County in eastern Oregon east through the high mountains of central Idaho to Wyoming and south to Nevada.