Strawberry fields

It started with Brian Kane (in Washington DC) writing to Facebook on May 18:

Not what I expected to see growing in the front lawn:


Doug Morgan: Is that a real strawberry or the edible but tasteless Indian strawberry?

Chris Ambidge: Didn’t Ingmar Bergen make a film about such strawberries?

Arnold Zwicky: Wild strawberries are small but delicious. Barren strawberries are small, hard, and pretty much tasteless. But pretty.

There are three plants at issue here: (1) plants of the genus Fragaria, including the hybrids that are the strawberries of garden and grocery, plus a number of species that grow wild, in particular F. vesca, the most common “wild strawberry”. (2) Waldsteinia fragarioides (‘strawberry-like Waldsteinia’), a weed commonly known as “barren strawberry”. (3) Duchesnea / Potentilla indica (‘Indian potentilla / cinquefoil’), a weed commonly known as “Indian strawberry”.

All three are in the Rosaceae, or rose family.

Wild strawberries. The garden and grocery strawberries are hybrids in the genus Fragaria; various other species grow wild and are commonly known as “wild strawberries”: F. vesca, F. alpina, F. californica, F. virginiana. From Wikipedia:

Fragaria vesca, commonly called wild strawberry, woodland strawberry, Alpine strawberry, European strawberry, or fraisier des bois, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the rose family that grows naturally throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, and that produces edible fruits.

… Vilmorin-Andrieux (1885) makes a distinction between Wild or Wood Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) and Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria alpina), a distinction which is not made by most seed companies or nurseries, which usually sell Fragaria vesca as “Alpine strawberry”.

Under “Wild or Wood Strawberry” he says:

It has seldom been seen in gardens since the introduction of the Red Alpine Strawberry. … Wood Strawberry possesses a quite particular perfume and delicacy of flavour.

There are cultivars of F. vesca that are deep red in color, intensely perfumed, soft, and delicious. Small but intoxicating. A wild plant:


(Note the fruits on nodding stems.) And its flowers:


On the Bergman film, from Wikipedia:

Wild Strawberries is a 1957 Swedish drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. The original Swedish title is Smultronstället, which literally means “The wild strawberry patch” but idiomatically signifies an underrated gem of a place, often with personal or sentimental value. The cast includes Victor Sjöström in his final screen performance as an old man recalling his past, as well as Bergman regulars Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin and Gunnar Björnstrand. Max von Sydow also appears in a small role … Exploring philosophical themes such as introspection and human existence, Wild Strawberries is often considered to be one of Bergman’s greatest and most moving films.

Sjöström and Andersson in the film:


Barren strawberry. From Wikipedia:



Waldsteinia fragarioides (syn. Dalibarda fragarioides Michx.), also called Appalachian barren strawberry, or just barren strawberry, is a low, spreading plant with showy yellow flowers that appear in early spring. This plant is often used as an underplanting in perennial gardens.

In some ways the appearance is similar to other low plants of the rose family such as Fragaria (strawberries) or Potentilla indica (Indian strawberry), but it lacks runners and has more rounded leaves.

It is native to eastern North America, from Minnesota, Quebec, and Maine south to Indiana and Pennsylvania (and as far south as North Carolina in the mountains).

This plant grew in the grass in our Columbus OH yard. The fruits are hard and tasteless, edible but not palatable. We just treated them as another pretty ornamental plant that lived in the lawn, like all the violets, clovers, heal-all (Prunella vulgaris), ajuga, and so on.

Indian strawberry. From Wikipedia:


Duchesnea indica (sometimes called Potentilla indica), known commonly by the names mock strawberry, Indian strawberry, or false strawberry] is a strawberry-like plant that has foliage and an aggregate accessory fruit similar to that of a true strawberry, though this is apparently an independent evolution of the similar fruit type. It has yellow flowers, unlike the white or slightly pink flowers of true strawberries. It is native to eastern and southern Asia, but has been introduced to many other areas as an ornamental plant. It has been naturalized in many regions, including the southern United States, and is considered an invasive species in some regions.

… The aggregate accessory fruits are white or red, and entirely covered with red achenes, simple ovaries, each containing a single seed. They are edible, but they have very little flavor…

Recent genetic evidence has shown that this genus is better included within Potentilla, but currently most sources still list it in the genus Duchesnea.

Probably the plant in Brian Kane’s front lawn, though Brian’s plant might be Waldsteinia further south than it usually gets in lowlands.

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