Fragaria vesca: Woodland strawberry

Family: Rosaceae
Common name: Woodland strawberry, Wild strawberry, Alpine strawberry, Carpathian strawberry, European strawberry, Fraisier des bois, Alpine Strawberry, California Strawberry, Sow-Teat Strawberry

Native to the cool, temperate countries of the Northern hemisphere, Woodland strawberries are also grown in gardens in South India for their fruits, and as ornamental plants. In their native habitats, these plants grow in the wild, spreading quickly through stolons or running roots that can produce new plants.

Woodland strawberry plants only grow to a height of 15-30 centimeters and are wild versions of the commercially available strawberries, Fragaria × ananassa, which is a hybrid. Woodland strawberries have been grown and eaten by humans for hundreds of years, and the smaller berries are considered superior in taste to the commercial strawberries.

Woodland strawberry leaves are light green, have 3 leaflets without stalks, and toothed margins. Flowers are very pretty, with 5 white-colored, rounded petals and a yellow center. Stamens are prominent and yellow, arranged radially around the center.

Once pollinated, these flowers produce bright-red fruits that are technically not berries, but are called strawberries. Strawberry flowers have multiple ovaries and these enlarge to form the fruit, with multiple seeds all over the surface of the fruit. These are called aggregate fruits, like custard apples or Annona squamosa.

In its native habitat, Woodland strawberry plants grow along roadsides, hillsides, meadows, forest edges, and clearings, producing fruits in abundance. They are tolerant of drought and even fire damage, as the plants can re-establish themselves after forest fires.

Woodland strawberry leaves and fruits are preferred by a variety of grazing animals, small birds and mammals that help in dispersing the seed through their droppings.

Fruits are used to make jams, jellies, preserves and sauces. Tender leaves of the plant is used in salads, and also used to prepare tea. Turkey is one of the largest producers of Woodland strawberry, most of which is exported world over.

These plants are considered good ground cover or boundary plants because they spread quickly through stolons or runner roots. They also look beautiful in hanging baskets or containers placed on window sills.

Plants may wear out after 2-3 years of profuse flowering and fruiting, at which time it’s good to separate and replant some of the smaller plants growing from the stolons.

Woodland strawberry plants make good ornamental plants as well, with their beautiful flowers, and bright red fruits hanging around the edges of flower pots. With good sunlight, well-drained soil and regular fertilization, these plants can give you tasty fruits for many seasons.

Propagation is through seeds and stolons.