Fragaria virginiana
Common Name: scarlet strawberry
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Rosaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 0.25 to 0.75 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 4-9 where these plants are easily grown in fertile, moist to dry-mesic, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers organically rich, sandy loams. This is a cool-season perennial that grows best in spring and fall. After setting fruit, plants may slow down or go dormant in hot summer months. Plants flower reliably in spring, but the subsequent appearance of fruit is dependent upon climatic conditions. Plants spread indefinitely by runners that root as they sprawl along the ground. Plants generally dislike high summer heat, humidity and strong drying winds. Propagate from runners.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Fragaria virginiana, commonly called wild strawberry, is a ground-hugging herbaceous perennial that typically grows to 4-7” tall but spreads indefinitely by runners (stolons) which root to form new plants as they sprawl along the ground, often forming large colonies over time. It is native to woodland openings, meadows, prairies, limestone glades and cleared areas including roadsides from Newfoundland to Alberta south to Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. Each trifoliate leaf has three coarsely toothed leaflets (each leaflet to 2 1/2” long), with each leaf appearing on a slender stalk (to 6” long). Five-petaled white flowers (to 3/4” across) with numerous yellow-anthered center stamens bloom in April-May in flat umbel-like clusters (4-6 flowers each) located separate from and below the leaves on stalks that do not exceed the length of the leaf stalk. Flowers give way to achene-dotted ovoid fruits (strawberries) which mature to red in a much smaller size (to 1/2” and across) than fruits produced by cultivated strawberry plants. Seeds are embedded in the pits of the strawberries. Wild strawberries have a sweet tart flavor. Botanically, the achenes are the true fruits and the red strawberries are actually false fruits (enlarged flower receptacles).

Cultivated strawberries found in stores are hybrid crosses between F. virginiana (native to North America) and F. chiloensis (native to western coastal South America including Chile) which combine the excellent taste of the former with the larger fruit size of the latter.

Genus name comes from the Latin word fraga meaning strawberry presumably from fragrans meaning fragrant in reference to the perfume of the fruit.

Specific epithet means of Virginia.

Historically, many plants in this genus were mulched with straw in order to combat the possible onset of fungal diseases, hence the common name of strawberry.

Problems

Strawberries are susceptible to a large number of potential diseases, including but not limited to: foliage diseases (leaf spot, scorch), root rots (red stele, black root rot), fruit rots (anthracnose, leather rot), gray mold and viruses. Tarnished plant bugs, spider mites, aphids, leafrollers, slugs, nematodes and strawberry weevils are occasional insect problems

Garden Uses

Ground cover or border plant. Woodland gardens. Erosion control on slopes. Fruits are quite small but very tasty and may be eaten fresh off the vine or cooked into a variety of dishes including pies and jams.