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Plant of the Month: June 2010

Wild Strawberry
Fragaria vesca L. 1753
= Potentilla vesca (L.) Scop. 1771
ROSACEÆ; Rose Family

The original strawberry plant, so named in Europe, is a small groundcover that spread mostly via runners and secondarily by seeds. Its berries were typically red, sweet, and prized highly as food. In the 1700s some variants of it became known, that offered larger berries, and were everbearing: instead of ripening a crop mainly in May and June, they kept producing until November or later. Some of these everbearing or "alpine" strawberries also formed clumps alone, with no runners.
    North America has a native race of Fragaria vesca, called ssp. or var. americana. And where I live in Seattle, the most common native race has been named ssp. or var. bracteata. It is exclusively runner-bearing, May to early July ripening, sweet-tasting, and red-fruited. In contrast, its European cousins, that are naturalized in Seattle now, can be white-berried or red-berried, with or without runners, spring-early summer ripening or perpetual-bearing, and taste sweet or bland. Also the European berries can be much larger than the American natives, and longer than wide. In brief, the Europeans are far more diverse, and useful in gardens. There are many named cultivars.
    The big strawberries of produce stands, are hybrids whose parentage does not include Fragaria vesca.
    The way I tell apart Seattle native or European Fragaria vesca races, is by looking close at the berries. The native seeds are more or less sunk into the fruit; the European seeds are jutting out. My photos show this. Of course, the relative lack of diversity of the native also is a factor to use in case you observe a patch that has no ripe berries.
    Maybe the native and European will hybridize sometime, though in my garden both have grown for decades and I have observed no intermediate offspring

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White-berried European <i>Fragaria vesca</i>

White-berried European Fragaria vesca; June 2010 photo by ALJ

Red-berried European <i>Fragaria vesca</i>

Red-berried European Fragaria vesca; June 2010 photo by ALJ

Red-berried American <i>Fragaria vesca</i>

Red-berried American Fragaria vesca; June 2010 photo by ALJ




Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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