Wild Strawberry
(Fragaria virginiana)

Straw House
From Stalking the Wild Dandelion

A Guide to Wild Edible Plants for Parents
and Teachers to Use With Children

A new, as yet unpublished, work-in-progress.

Purslane Leaves and Stems

Wild Strawberries

Description:

Herbaceous plant with small, white, 5-petaled flower, 3-parted leaf, and familiar fruit; flower white, radially-symmetrical, 5 petals, 1/2 to 1 inch broad, on separate flower stalk; fruit drooping on long, slender, stalk, much smaller than commercial strawberry, with 10 tiny, green sepals cupping the base; leaf on separate stalk, 3-parted palmate-compound, with large, even teeth, leaflets long-oval, 2-3 inches long; plant 2-6 inches tall, spreading by long, slender, scaly, horizontal runners.

Earls, dukes, princes, and marquises used the common strawberry's beautifully-shaped 3-parted, evenly-toothed compound leaves as emblems on the crowns. Poison ivy also with three leaflets, lacks the even teeth.

The white strawberry flower, which ripens early in spring, grows up to one inch across, with five symmetrical petals.

Strawberry in Flower

Wild Strawberry Flowers and Leaves

Flowers and leaves grow separately on long, slender stalks.
With milk-white flowers, whence soon shall sweet
Rich fruitage, to the taste and smell
Pleasant alike, the Strawberry weaves
Its coronet of three-fold leaves,
In mazes through the sloping wood.

—Anonymous

Strawberry Flowers

Wild Strawberry in Flower

The fruit ripens in late spring or early summer. Much smaller than commercial strawberries, it takes long to collect, but tastes much better. Stuff yourself with wild strawberries, collect them to use on cereal, in pancakes, oatmeal, fruit salad, sauces, or other desserts. Theyíre so good, theyíre the symbol of perfect excellence.
Wild Strawberries

Wild Strawberries

A HAIKU GUIDE TO WILD STRAWBERRIES

1. Always pick the day
before the berry;
try the first day of summer.

2. Then fall to your knees
and follow your nose
in a field the sun favors.

3. Yes, bring a bucket
but to eat your fill,
you must be lucky or small.

4. And to bring them home,
even to loved ones,
makes you a strawberry saint.

by Terry Hayes

Strawberries grow where there's lots of sun: in meadows, fields, on moist ground, along the edge of woods, and on hillsides. You can find them across the U.S.

There are no poisonous plants that resemble strawberries, but there's a related edible plant called the wood strawberry with yellow flowers, and a similar fruit surrounded by hairy sepals (modified leaves), that has no flavor—it's as tasteless as my jokes!

Wood Strawberry

Wood Strawberry

Caution: This delicious-lookng fruit may look like a strawberry, but it's not. It's the deadly wood strawberry: It looks so good when you pick it, but has absolutely no flavor when you eat it, causing you to die of disappointment!

The only way to use this fruit is to add it to salads or dessert dishes to add color.
Wood Strawberry Flower

Wood Strawberry Flower

In Europe, the strawberry flower means: be alert; it also signifies innocence. In the past, a woman would thread strawberries on grass stems for the one she loved:

The wood nymphs often times would busy be,
And pluck for him the blushing strawberry;
Making of them a bracelet on a bent,
Which for a favour to this swain they sent.

—Anonymous

Superstitious Michigan farmers never ate the first strawberry to ripen, because it would show the plant that making lots of fruit was no use. So theyíd throw the first strawberry to the birds. This goes back to the pagan show of respect for the nature spirits.

Scandinavians believed the goddess Frigga smuggled dead babies' souls to heaven hidden inside strawberries. Bavarian peasants tied baskets of strawberries to their cattle's horns so elves could enjoy the fruit at night, and return the favor by magically using their magic to make the peasants prosperous.

THE MOTHER, THE STRAWBERRIES, AND THE GOLD
—German Folk Tale

Once upon a time, on the magical Midsummer Day (the summer solstice), a woman with a baby went picking strawberries. By nightfall she realized that the more berries she gathered, the more there were. After a while, she came upon a cave and entered it, carrying her baby. Inside lay mounds of gold. The three maidens of the cave allowed her to remove as much gold as she carry in one armful. But the woman became greedy, grabbed three armfuls of gold, and fled out of the cave, leaving the baby behind. Suddenly, the entrance shut behind her, and a voice called out, warning her that she couldnít reclaim the infant for another year.

On the next summer solstice, she was overjoyed to find the cave entrance open again. Inside, her child was waiting for her with a rosy apple in his hand. This time, she ignored the treasure and rushed to her child. The maidens of the cave, seeing how love had triumphed over greed, let them both go.

Native American CoupleTHE ORIGIN OF STRAWBERRIES
A Native American Folk Tale

Soon after the Great Spirit created the first man and the first woman, they began to quarrel. Nobody remembers why, but because of it, the first woman ran away in great anger. Soon, the first man became very sad, and began to moan and weep. The Great Spirit heard his cries and felt sorry for him. "Would you like to see your wife again?" he asked. "If only she'd come back," the first man promised, "I'll never quarrel with her again!"

"Go find her, then," said the Great Spirit. The first man ran after her, but the first woman had too great a head start. So the Great Spirit created a huge patch of blueberries in her path, hoping she would stop to eat. But she was so angry, she didn't even slow down.

Next, he tried raspberries, then currants, and even blackberries. Although the thorns tore her clothes and scratched her, she kept going.

Finally, the Great Spirit created a new berry growing along the ground, and she slowed down to try one. It was so good, she stopped to pick more. That was how the first man finally caught up to her and apologized. They made up, and the strawberry is still shaped like a heart because it symbolizes the love of The First Man and The First Woman. And Native people call it the heartberry.

This fruit shows an exception to nature's rules. The seeds, which grow on the outside of the fruit, are often sterileóthey usually donít grow into new plants. Strawberries usually spread vegetatively, by runners. The fruit is a only a vestige (left-over) of an ancestor that did spread by seeds, although gardeners have propogated this plant using seeds. Runners gradually became so successful and important that varieties that wasted too much energy reproducing by seeds died out. The reason we can eat strawberries is that the genes (programming units) that instruct the plant to make the marginally functional flowers and fruit still exist. {Note to educators: This is a good time to introduce genetics, inheritance, and contemporary issues of biotechnology.}

Wife unto the garden and set me a plot,
With strawberry rootes of the best to be got
Such growing abroade, among thorns in the wood,
Well chosen and picked prove excellent good.

—Tusser

More Excerpts From This Book, Other Books, More Plants, Home, Back to the Top