This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The present distribution in the North Temperate Zone of Europe and N. Africa is all we know of this plant. In England and Wales it is generally distributed, but it does not occur in South Lincs, Mid Lancs, Roxburgh, Mid and N. Ebudes, E. Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney, Shetland. It is found at a height of 2100 ft. in Wales. It is common to Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Barren Strawberry (potentilla Sterilis, Garcke)
The Barren Strawberry is more fond of the open than the Wild Strawberry. It is a common roadside flower growing amongst the sward at the side of the macadam. It is also to be found in woods, where it forms wide patches. Banks are again a favourite habitat of this pretty wild flower. By the wayside its white flowers contrast with the yellow blooms of the Silverweed, which, however, flowers later as a general rule.
This little gem of a flower is, as its former second Latin name, fragariastrum, implies, like the strawberry in habit, that is to say, dwarf, trailing, or prostrate, rising at the tip, with numerous brownish thick stems, which bear many inversely egg-shaped leaflets, in threes, coarsely-toothed, and softly downy on the sides. From the Wild Strawberry this plant differs in having no erect flower-stalks, and it has generally smaller flowers, with distant (not overlapping) petals, which are not notched as in the latter.
The calyx is as long as the corolla, and the achenes are hairy on the scar, and wrinkled transversely. The receptacle is not, as in the Wild Strawberry, fleshy.
The Barren Strawberry is not more than 6 in. in height. It is in flower in March up to May. It is perennial, and reproduced by achenes, which are numerous.
It is an early-flowering plant, with many flowers, which are white but inconspicuous. It is consequently not much visited by insects, and is probably in the majority of cases self-pollinated. The honey is secreted as a thin layer, and not in drops as in Fragaria, with which otherwise it largely agrees. The anthers and stigma are ripe at the same time.
The fruit consists of a group of achenes, which are dispersed when dry by falling away from the disk, and partly by the wind.
Barren Strawberry is a sand-loving plant, and addicted to a sand soil, flourishing also on barren stony ground, derived from granite or older harder siliceous rock soils.
Two fungi are liable to be found on the Barren Strawberry, Septoria fragarice and Phragmidium fragariastri.
A beetle, Galeruca tenella, frequents it, and a moth, Nepticula arcuata.
Potentilla, Brunfels, is from the Latin potens, powerful, in allusion to its powerful astringent nature, and the second Latin name refers to its barren nature.
This plant is called Barren Strawberry, Strawberry Plant. It was assigned to St. Hilary.
Essential Specific Characters: 98. Potentilla sterilis, Garcke. - Stem prostrate, leaves obovate, ternate, serrate, silky, flowers white, petals as long as sepals, notched, short.