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Barren Strawberry

Potentilla sterilis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rosaceae (Rose)
Also in this family:
Acute Leaf-lobed Lady's-mantle, Alpine Cinquefoil, Alpine Lady's-mantle, Ampfield Cotoneaster, Arran Service Tree, Arran Whitebeam, Bastard Agrimony, Bastard Service Tree, Bearberry Cotoneaster, Bird Cherry, Blackthorn, Bloody Whitebeam, Bramble, Bristol Whitebeam, Broad-leaved Whitebeam, Broadtooth Lady's-mantle, Bronze Pirri-pirri-bur, Bullace Plum, Bullate Cotoneaster, Burnet Rose, Catacol Whitebeam, Caucasian Lady's-mantle, Cheddar Whitebeam, Cherry Laurel, Cherry Plum, Chinese Photinia, Cloudberry, Clustered Lady's-mantle, Common Agrimony, Common Hawthorn, Common Lady's-mantle, Common Medlar, Common Ninebark, Common Whitebeam, Crab Apple, Creeping Chinese Bramble, Creeping Cinquefoil, Crimean Lady's-mantle, Cultivated Apple, Cultivated Pear, Cut-leaved Blackberry, Damson, Devon Whitebeam, Dewberry, Diel's Cotoneaster, Dog Rose, Doward Whitebeam, Dropwort, Elm-leaved Bramble, English Whitebeam, Entire-leaved Cotoneaster, False Salmonberry, Field Rose, Firethorn, Fodder Burnet, Fragrant Agrimony, Franchet's Cotoneaster, Garden Lady's-mantle, Garden Strawberry, Giant Meadowsweet, Glaucous Dog Rose, Goatsbeard Spiraea, Gough's Rock Whitebeam, Great Burnet, Greengage Plum, Grey-leaved Whitebeam, Hairless Lady's-mantle, Hairy Lady's-mantle, Hautbois Strawberry, Himalayan Blackberry, Himalayan Cotoneaster, Himalayan Whitebeam, Hoary Cinquefoil, Hollyberry Cotoneaster, Hupeh Rowan, Hybrid Cinquefoil, Hybrid Geum, Irish Whitebeam, Japanese Cherry, Japanese Quince, Japanese Rose, Jew's Mallow, Juneberry, Lancaster Whitebeam, Late Cotoneaster, Least Lady's-mantle, Least Whitebeam, Leigh Woods Whitebeam, Ley's Whitebeam, Liljefor's Whitebeam, Littleleaf Cotoneaster, Llangollen Whitebeam, Llanthony Whitebeam, Lleyn Cotoneaster, Loganberry, Many-flowered Rose, Margaret's Whitebeam, Marsh Cinquefoil, Meadowsweet, Midland Hawthorn, Mougeot's Whitebeam, Mountain Ash, Mountain Avens, Mountain Sibbaldia, Moupin's Cotoneaster, No Parking Whitebeam, Ocean Spray, Orange Whitebeam, Pale Bridewort, Pale Lady's-mantle, Parsley Piert, Pirri-pirri-bur, Plymouth Pear, Portuguese Laurel, Purple-flowered Raspberry, Quince, Raspberry, Rock Cinquefoil, Rock Lady's-mantle, Rock Whitebeam, Round-leaved Dog Rose, Round-leaved Whitebeam, Rum Cherry, Russian Cinquefoil, Salad Burnet, Sargent's Rowan, Scannell's Whitebeam, Service Tree, Sharp-toothed Whitebeam, Sherard's Downy Rose, Shining Lady's-mantle, Ship Rock Whitebeam, Short-styled Rose, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Silver Lady's-mantle, Silverweed, Slender Parsley Piert, Slender-spined Bramble, Small-flowered Sweetbriar, Small-leaved Sweetbriar, Soft Downy Rose, Somerset Whitebeam, Sorbaria, Sour Cherry, Southern Downy Rose, Southern Lady's-mantle, Spineless Acaena, Spring Cinquefoil, St. Lucie's Cherry, Steeplebush, Stern's Cotoneaster, Stirton's Whitebeam, Stone Bramble, Sulphur Cinquefoil, Swedish Service Tree, Swedish Whitebeam, Sweet Briar, Symond's Yat Whitebeam, Tengyueh Cotoneaster, Thimbleberry, Thin-leaved Whitebeam, Tibetan Cotoneaster, Tormentil, Trailing Tormentil, Tree Cotoneaster, Trefoil Cinquefoil, Twin-cliffs Whitebeam, Two-spined Acaena, Wall Cotoneaster, Water Avens, Waterer's Cotoneaster, Waxy Lady's-mantle, Welsh Cotoneaster, Welsh Whitebeam, White Burnet, White's Whitebeam, White-stemmed Bramble, Wild Cherry, Wild Pear, Wild Plum, Wild Service Tree, Wild Strawberry, Willmott's Whitebeam, Willow-leaved Bridewort, Willow-leaved Cotoneaster, Wineberry, Wood Avens, Wye Whitebeam, Yellow-flowered Strawberry
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, hedgerows, meadows, rocky places, scrub, walls, woodland.

White, 5 petals
Strawberry-like flowers, rarely more than 1cm wide. Flowers have 5 slightly notched white petals. The petal have gaps between them.
The Barren Strawberry does not bear strawberries as the name of this plant implies, in fact this flower does not fruit.
Trefoil leaves, strawberry-like in appearance. The leaves are smaller, more bluish, duller and hairier than the similar-looking Wild Strawberry. The margins of the leaves are toothed with the terminal tooth being smaller than the side teeth. The size of the terminal tooth is a distinguishing feature of Barren Strawberry.
Other Names:
Barren Cinquefoil, Strawberryleaf Cinquefoil.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Potentilla sterilis, also known as barren strawberry or barren cinquefoil, is a species of flowering plant in the rose family. It is native to Europe and Asia and typically grows in rocky or gravelly habitats, such as alpine meadows and tundra. The plant is a perennial herb that typically grows to be around 10-30 cm tall. It has palmately compound leaves with five to seven leaflets, and yellow flowers that bloom in the spring and summer. The fruit is a small, dry achene, rather than the juicy, fleshy fruit typical of most strawberries. It is not used for food or traditional medicine, but it can be grown as an ornamental.


Barren strawberry, also known as Potentilla sterilis, is a small, delicate perennial herb that belongs to the rose family. It is native to Europe, but can also be found in other parts of the world, such as North America and Asia. The plant is sometimes referred to as "barren" because it does not produce edible fruit like its close relative, the wild strawberry.

Appearance and Habitat

Barren strawberry plants are typically no more than a few inches tall, with small leaves that are green and hairy on top, and lighter colored and smoother underneath. The flowers are small, white or pale pink, and have five petals. They bloom in the spring and early summer, and are followed by small, dry achenes that resemble strawberry seeds.

Barren strawberry can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, meadows, and rocky areas. It prefers well-drained soil and can be found growing in both sunny and shaded locations. It is sometimes considered a weed, as it can spread quickly and form dense mats on the ground.

Traditional Uses

Despite its lack of edible fruit, barren strawberry has a long history of medicinal and culinary use. In traditional medicine, it was used to treat a range of ailments, including digestive issues, sore throats, and skin conditions. The leaves were often used to make tea or poultices, while the roots were sometimes chewed to relieve toothache.

In addition to its medicinal properties, barren strawberry was also used as a culinary herb in some parts of Europe. The leaves and flowers were added to salads or used as a garnish for desserts. The plant was also used to flavor vinegars and other condiments.

Modern Uses

While barren strawberry is not commonly used in modern medicine, it is still valued by some herbalists for its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in herbal remedies for conditions such as diarrhea, inflammation, and sore throat.

In addition, barren strawberry is sometimes used in landscaping and gardening as a ground cover or edging plant. Its small size and delicate flowers make it an attractive addition to rock gardens, borders, or woodland gardens.


Barren strawberry may be small and unassuming, but it has a long history of traditional use and is still valued by some herbalists and gardeners today. Whether you appreciate it for its medicinal properties, its culinary uses, or its aesthetic appeal, this little plant has much to offer.

More Information about Barren Strawberries

Barren strawberry also has a cultural significance in some regions. In Norse mythology, the goddess Freya was associated with the plant and it was believed that barren strawberry had the power to protect against evil spirits. In some parts of Europe, it was also believed to bring good luck and happiness to the home if it was grown in the garden.

The plant has also been the subject of scientific research. Studies have found that barren strawberry contains compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may have potential benefits for human health. For example, one study found that an extract of barren strawberry leaves had a protective effect on the liver in rats with liver damage.

Despite its potential benefits, it's important to note that barren strawberry can also be toxic in large quantities. The plant contains compounds that can cause digestive upset or other symptoms if ingested in large amounts. As with any medicinal or culinary herb, it's important to use caution and follow appropriate guidelines when using barren strawberry.

Barren strawberry may be a small and unassuming plant, but it has a long history of traditional use and a variety of potential benefits. Whether you appreciate it for its cultural significance, its medicinal properties, or its aesthetic appeal, this little plant is worth taking a closer look at.

Barren strawberry is a low-maintenance plant that can be easily grown in a variety of garden settings. It prefers well-drained soil and can tolerate partial shade, making it a great option for woodland gardens or shady corners. It can also tolerate dry conditions, making it a good choice for rock gardens or other areas with poor soil.

When planting barren strawberry, it's important to keep in mind that it can spread quickly and form dense mats on the ground. This can be a great way to fill in bare spots or create ground cover, but it's important to make sure it doesn't take over other plants or become too invasive. To prevent this, you can plant barren strawberry in containers or use barriers to keep it contained.

If you're interested in using barren strawberry for culinary or medicinal purposes, it's important to use caution and follow appropriate guidelines. Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedies, and make sure to properly identify the plant before using it. Some other common names for barren strawberry include wild strawberry, starwort, and wintergreen, so it's important to make sure you have the correct plant.

Barren strawberry may not be as well-known as some other plants, but it has a rich history of traditional use and a variety of potential benefits. Whether you're interested in using it for its medicinal or culinary properties, or simply want to add a small but attractive plant to your garden, barren strawberry is definitely worth considering.

Another interesting fact about barren strawberry is that it can serve as a host plant for the caterpillars of the grizzled skipper butterfly. The grizzled skipper is a small, brown and gray butterfly that is found throughout Europe, and its caterpillars feed on the leaves of several different species of plants, including barren strawberry. By planting barren strawberry in your garden, you may be providing habitat for these important pollinators.

Barren strawberry is also a plant with a long history of use in traditional folk medicine. In addition to the uses mentioned earlier, the plant has also been used to treat conditions such as diarrhea, menstrual cramps, and inflammation. Some traditional remedies involve making a tea from the leaves or roots, while others involve using a poultice made from the mashed leaves or applying the juice of the plant directly to the affected area.

While the scientific evidence for the medicinal properties of barren strawberry is still limited, some studies have suggested that the plant may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. For example, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2013 found that an extract of barren strawberry had potent antioxidant activity and could potentially be used as a natural preservative in food products.

Overall, barren strawberry is a fascinating and versatile plant with a rich history of use and a variety of potential benefits. Whether you're interested in using it for its medicinal properties, its culinary uses, or simply want to add a small and attractive plant to your garden, barren strawberry is definitely worth exploring further.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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