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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

A Complete Wild Food Guide

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Season: Late Spring to Early Summer

Urban, Rural or Both: Rural mainly

Woodland Strawberries (Fragaria vesca). Known also as the Alpine Strawberry, European Strawberry, Hillside Strawberry and Wild Strawberry. Also, Wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana). Known also as the Common Strawberry and the Virginia Strawberry. Both are more often than not just called Wild Strawberries, and though there are differences in the plant and the taste of the fruit, there are far more similarities than the differences, and whichever one I find, I eat. Most people who already eat them have no idea there are two variations - I didn't for a long time.

Telling the difference is not obvious unless you carefully study them. Since this is a book focused on eating wild foods, the most important difference is the taste. The Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) does taste better - very good "Strawberry" flavor, while the taste of the Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca), is duller and less sweet, but still worth picking. On the Wild Strawberry the little yellow seeds (achenes technically) are on the surface in pits, or holes, while on the Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca), the seeds (achenes) are on the surface not in pits or holes. On the Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) the leaf is thicker and tougher feeling and wrinkly looking, where on the Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), it is thinner and less tough feeling and flatter overall. The serrations on the tips of the leaf are longer than the sides of the Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) leaf, whereas on the Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) the serrations are about the same size all around the leaf. Also, in general, the Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) is lower to the ground than the Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) - but that can overlap. The Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) has runners that are up to 60 cm (2 feet) long, while the Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) has runners up to about 30 cm (1 foot) long. I've noticed the Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) variety produces fewer runners than the Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), but that could just be my sample.

Oddly, though they are so very similar in most ways, they do not hybridize, as they are genetically unique. One has two sets of chromosomes, while the other has eight.

There is a caution with this plant: Do Not confuse it with the Mock Strawberry Potentilla indica. There is a difference of opinion on how poisonous the Mock Strawberry is, but best be safe. Unfortunately, the leaves are very similar. Although not native to North America, the Mock Strawberry has been brought here as a garden ornamental and has escaped and naturalized in places in Eastern North America, especially the Southeastern USA. Pictures of the Mock Strawberry on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images). The Mock Strawberry has yellow flowers, while the Wild Strawberry has white or pinkish-white flowers. Take note when comparing pictures of them that the Mock Strawberry fruit is upright on the stem and has five green little petals (bracts technically) framing it, while the Wild Strawberry hangs down from an arced over stem (stem does a U-turn) and does not have the green petals framing it.

You can gather Wild Strawberries and use like strawberries, but they don't last long, and squish easily, so the best way is to just eat as you gather. If you have a low stool or wooden box to sit on while you do this, it makes the task more pleasant.

If you like whipped cream over regular strawberries cut up, a nice visual trick for serving is to have a few wild strawberries gathered, put the regular strawberries cut in the bowl, put the whipped cream on top, then a few wild strawberries on the whipped cream.

Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).

Growing this plant in your home garden:

Yes, and very easy. You can start from seed, but the easiest way is to transplant a shovel full that you find to where you want them. Few conditions they will not like, but if you live in the Southern parts of the USA, give them a little shade. After they take, just weed the area and pick berries in season. Nice rock garden plant by the way.

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Wild & Woodland Strawberry page.

Woodland Strawberries (Fragaria vesca).


Woodland Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.

Wild Strawberry

Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) plants in late summer after last fruiting.

Wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana).


Wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.

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Important Notes when Identifying
Rules & Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching

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