Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wild Flower Wednesday: Wild Strawberry

Fragrant and tasty - Wild Strawberry
What could be more natural than the desire to add one of Alberta's more common, delicately attractive, and tasty native ground covers to a home garden? Admittedly, Wild Strawberry rarely produces fruit, but the white flowers have plenty of charm, the trefoil leaves are attractive, and the runners are red. They also spread freely and vigorously across garden beds and mulch, crowding out less competitive plants.
Ascending toothed margins, short terminal tooth, and an upper leaf surface without hairs give you Fragaria virginiana.
Alberta actually has two species of wild strawberries: the common Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) and the more restricted Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca). The latter has leaves where the teeth on the margins diverge, a longer terminal tooth, and a hairy upper surface. I'm not sure if Woodland Strawberry is less aggressive, but Wild Strawberry is not a good choice for the garden. I've been aggressively weeding my sprawling horde for over two years and am barely keeping ahead.
Hybrid Commercial Strawberry
The hybrid commercial strawberry - which is said to have resulted from crosses between Wild Strawberry and the West Coast Beach Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) - has leaves that look a bit like Woodland Strawberry. Moreover, commercial strawberries are just as attractive as their wild relatives and put most of their energy into producing fruit, and much less into producing runners.
Small Sweat Bee enjoying Pink Panda
If you like the look of strawberries in your garden, but don't so much like strawberries, then Pink Panda (Fragaria ‘Frel’ x Potentilla) is a good alternative. The pink flowers are highly attractive to pollinators, start blooming early and last all summer, but set very few fruit. We've had them slowly spreading through the Home Bug Garden almost as long as Wild Strawberry, but rarely need to weed them. They make a nice ground cover.
Fragaria Pretty-in-Rose
If you like your ground covers a bit more gaudy, then Fragaria Pretty-in-Rose may be a good choice. I'm not sure what they crossed a strawberry with to get this particular shade of reddish pink, but our 2010 plantings survived last winter and produce moderate numbers of large, tasty, but strange-looking fruit last summer. I'm hoping they pull through with this winter's sparse snow cover.
Fruit of Pretty-in-Rose

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