Fragaria virginiana

Wild strawberry

CODE: 00A-0001
ZONE: 3a
PRICE: $6.00
POT SIZE: 4.5"sq x 3.5", 475 ml

There are few things that compare with the sweet taste of freshly picked wild strawberries. Although this species doesn't produce huge amounts of fruit, what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. However, if you're growing this plant it's probably not for the fruit anyhow.

I was introduced to our native wild strawberry sometime around 1992 or so -- I was still an undergraduate student and was just starting to branch out of my landscape architecture training into horticulture. A local nature center had a prairie display garden chock full of plants, and every other week I drove out there religiously, camera in hand, trying to understand the essence of the plants.

Despite the fact that I didn't get to eat native strawberries until many years later, I still knew that I liked this plant when I first saw it. The coarse, three-parted, toothed leaves were interesting and always looked good. In spring the buds would swell until large, five-petaled white flowers with yellow centers burst forth, dotting the area with their charm.

In 1993 the nature center decided to expand, but the only direction they could go was into their prairie display garden. They put up signs saying that we could come dig out whatever plants we wanted, so boy did I dig! Many of the plants in the prairie bed at my parents' house have their origins from that plot, and these wild strawberries are no exception. They all trace their ancestry back to these transplants from native Illinois prairies.

This plant will spread, so don't put it in a confined space. Instead, let it ramble at the feet of larger perennials like purple coneflower or false sunflower. And be sure to place them where you can watch the birds come feast on their delectable fruit.

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(c) 2007 Christopher P. Lindsey