Wild Strawberry

2019 September 8

We have a lot of strawberry plants growing on our property, even though we never planted them. This blossoming specimen was photographed on June 3, 2019, and you can see how it is a low growing plant growing around the bases of plants that will ultimately become a lot taller.


The wild strawberry plants in our area are Fragaria virginiana[1]. They can be told from the other common north american wild strawberry, the Woodland Strawberry Fragaria vesca, by the shape of the teeth at the leaf tips (the central tooth on the Woodland Strawberry is as long as the adjacent teeth, while the one we have here has the central tooth shorter than the adjacent ones).


The blossoms look pretty much identical to the blossoms of domesticated strawberries, for the simple reason that this is one of the parent species of the domesticated varieties.


Modern domesticated strawberries are a result of crossing this species with a Chilean strawberry species, Fragaria chiloensis. The hybridization evidently made it easier to select for large fruit size, leading to the big strawberries that we have today.

The reason I don’t have any pictures of the fruit, is because the fruits are very hard to find. They are only about the size of a person’s fingernail, and birds love them so very very much that they get snatched up and eaten pretty much as fast as they get ripe. On the few occasions I have seen wild strawberry fruits, they were generally oval, the seeds were deeply inset in to the surface, and each little berry had about as much flavor packed into it as a much larger modern garden strawberry. There almost seems to be a “conservation of flavor” effect, where the larger the berries become, the more bland they are because the same amount of flavor is spread throughout a larger volume of berry flesh.

The big advantage of the modern garden strawberries is simply that they are big enough and plentiful enough that (a) the birds can’t scarf them down in a single bite, and (b) they are so much more productive that a person can pick a quart of berries in a few minutes rather than taking all afternoon. If I tried making and selling a half-pint of wild strawberry jam, I’d probably have to charge $25 for it to make it worth the effort.

[1] There are lots of plants and animals that have the species name “virginica” or “virginiana” or some other variation on the name Virginia. This is in spite of the fact that most of these species are widespread throughout a lot of North America, and in some cases are more common outside of the state of Virginia than in it. I think this is because the first naturalists in the U.S. were in Virginia, and so they tended to give that name to the things that they found at home, regardless of whether they were actually specific to that area or not.

4 Responses
  1. September 19, 2019

    What kind of edible plants do you grow on your property up there in the Frozen North?

  2. September 20, 2019

    Well, let’s see:
    Apples (about 30 or so trees, most of which are feral trees of no particular named variety)
    Plums (the little purple ones, although the trees are fussy and don’t have fruit most years)
    Grapes (a particularly winter-hardy variety, but they grow great guns)
    Raspberries, Blackberries, and Thimbleberries (these are mostly wild)
    Juneberries (another wild fruit)
    Mulberries (we have several of these, but aside from one other in town I think they might be the only ones in the county)
    Cherries (mostly tart pie cherries, but we also have one sweet cherry that is doing well)
    Lingonberries (don’t bear much quantity of fruit, but they make a nice ground-cover plant)
    Honeyberries (I planted these because their native habitat is Siberia, the fruit is good but not overly plentiful)
    Blueberries (this is actually a commercial crop around here)
    Strawberries (we have grown these in the past, but there is commercial strawberry cultivation mainly down around Chassell, so we can buy locally-grown strawberries cheaper than we can grow them)
    Rhubarb (another plant of Siberian descent. I love rhubarb sauce on waffles)
    Potatos (there was a commercial potato operation down by Chassell until just a couple of years ago, and our property used to be part of a potato farm 50 years ago)
    Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables (although the cabbage-white caterpillars and the earwigs get into these a lot)
    Peas and Green Beans
    Short-season squash (nothing longer than 70 day)

    We have a pawpaw tree (the last survivor of 5) that never quite dies but also doesn’t quite thrive, it is almost 20 years old and is still less than 5 feet tall. We have tried growing watermelons, but they don’t quite have time. Cantaloupes sometimes do OK, but only if we get a warm summer. Pumpkins just barely make it. Corn is touch-and-go, we just don’t get the heat units for it to thrive properly. Sunflowers do well, and while we can eat the seeds if we want, we mostly grow them for the birds to eat. We did get jalapeno peppers once, but only after starting indoors for an extended period.

  3. Lyle Laylin permalink
    September 20, 2019

    First – PawPaw? WOW our family farm was in northern Ingham county (near Lansing)
    and we were told we were at the northern edge of the range for them.
    I was also told the secret to getting a good one. If you pick them off the tree they aren’t ripe, if you get them off the ground they’re overripe, you have to catch them as they fall on their own.

    Second – My favorite for Rhubarb, Dice a quantity to suit into a microwave safe bowl, microwave until stewed (maybe a minute) serve with a couple scoops of good vanilla ice cream. Mmmm

    Third – Juneberry – I didn’t know them until I checked and found they are also known as Serviceberry under that name I’d heard of them. They’ll be in my yard next year.

  4. September 26, 2019

    Dang, that’s a serious agricultural operation. I guess it comes from having land where it rains. See, this is why I want to convince Wife Kitteh to move to Alabama. We could have lots of land and own a Chihuahua plantation. At the same time, we’d grow all kinds of stuff. It would be way cool and full of wiggly, little dogs.

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