Fragaria vesca woodland-, wood-, alpine-, or European wild strawberry, is a low-growing woody perennial in the Rosaceae (rose family) native north temperate regions of Eurasia and North America. The fruits are often collected in the wild, and this species is the source of several strawberry cultivars used commercially and in home gardens (most likely including the cultivars ‘Alpine,’ ‘Everbearing,’ and ‘Perpetual’), although the bulk of commercial strawberry production is yielded by F.X ananassa, the garden or pineapple strawberry, which is a hybrid of F. virginiana and F. chiloensis.
F. vesca plants grow to around 0.3 m (1 ft) high, short, woody stems and a basal rosette of compound leaves, with 3 coarsely toothed leaflets around 6 cm (2.5 in) long. The plants are characterized by long arching runners or stolons, which form new plantlets at the tip, and that allow them to reproduce vegetatively as well as by seed. The small, white, 5-parted flowers, 1.25 to 2 cm (0.5 to 0.75 in), occur in small clusters. The strawberries formed in the wild, uncultivated types are quite small, 1 to 2 cm (0.25 to 0.75 in) across, and generally ripen to red (although there is a white form) The strawberry is not a true berry, but is a fleshy receptable bearing multiple fruits on the surface—these apparent seeds are actually achenes, small, one-seeded fruits with hard coverings that do not split open (dehisce) when ripe. F. vesca can be distinguished from the often co-occurring Virginia strawberry (F. virginia because its the achenes project from the surface, rather occurring in deep pits, as in F. virginiana.
Strawberries are often eaten as a fresh fruit, famously in strawberry shortcake, and are also processed into ice creams, jams and preserves, mousses, fruit juice, and various baked goods and candies. Strawberries may also be fermented into wine or liqueur (such as the Italian fragoli).
In the wild, this species generally grows at altitudes of 2000 m or less. It has a wide distribution in North America as well as Europe, and may grow in partial shade in hardwood, conifer, and mixed forests, as well swamps and swamp edges, rocky savanna, and chaparral.
(Bailey et al. 1976, Flora of China 2012, Michigan Flora Online 2011, USDA 2006, van Wyk 2005.)
- Bailey, L.H., E.Z. Bailey, and the L.H. Bailey Hortatorium. 1976. Hortus Third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. New York: Macmillan. pp. 484, 1077–78.
- Flora of China. 2003. FRAGARIA Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 494. 1753. Flora of China 9: 335–338. Available online: http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/PDF/PDF09/Fragaria.PDF.
- MICHIGAN FLORA ONLINE. 2011. Reznicek, A. A., E. G. Voss, & B. S. Walters. University of Michigan. Web. 7-8-2012. http://www.michiganflora.net/home.aspx.
- USDA. 2006. Plant Guide: Wood Strawberry (Fragaria vesca). Prepared by M.K. Anderson and W. Roderick for USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center. Accessed online: http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_frve.pdf.
- van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. “Fragaria ananassa.” Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide. Portland, OR: Timber Press. p. 198.
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