// Twitter Cards // Prexisting Head The Biologist Is In: Strawberries Galore

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Strawberries Galore

I've been thinking a lot about what I wanted to do with my recently acquired property. Aside from the usual house and yard parties, and just relaxing under the shade of our lovely cottonwood tree, I've been thinking about installing some berry gardens.

Strawberries in particular are often in my thoughts. The plants produce numerous attractive flowers in early spring and the berries themselves are a wonderful treat. When I was a young child one of the neighbors had an amazing raised-garden full of strawberry plants, so there is also some nostalgia for me in the idea of picking ripe strawberries out in the yard.

Biologically, strawberries are in the same family as roses, raspberries, and blackberries. Remarkably, they can even hybridize with raspberries, though the reported hybrid have been completely sterile. The sterile hybrids produce wonderful flower displays, however, so they're not without value. As well, there remains the potential to correct the sterility and produce some [presumably] novel-tasting fruit. (http://the-biologist-is-in.blogspot.com/2015/01/hybrid-sterility-and-speciation.html)

With all that in mind, I've been collecting wild strawberry plants during my travels around the mid-west. I like the thought of discovering something 'new' and distinct from what I would get at the local garden center. I have also acquired a batch of modern domesticated plants from a fellow gardener in Minneapolis, because no matter how much I like the wild plants, I really do want to get some nice large berries out of this project.

  1. Wild strawberry from swamp in central Wisconsin.
    • Found growing on a raised trail in the center of a swamp in central Wisconsin. The plants filled in large areas of the trail and produced scattered small fruit held above the leaves. The flowers have petals facing more forward than the typical domesticated strawberry. The three leaflets of each leaf are narrower and more forward pointing than the typical domesticated strawberry.
  2. Wild strawberry from lake-shore in Brainerd, MN.
    • Found growing above the waterline in very sandy soil where they would experience periodic dryness. The plants formed wide colonies, but were small enough they could possibly be maintained in a mowed lawn. Ripe berries weren't seen, but several small ones are now developing.
  3. Wild strawberry from woodland in Brainerd, MN.
    • Found on the other side of the house from the other Brainerd sample, these were growing in deep shade underneath pines. The plants are large, similar to domesticated types.
  4. Wild strawberry from woodland in Duluth, MN.
    • Found growing in open woods. Large, flat-faced flowers are reminiscent of domesticated types. The plants are large, similar to domesticated types.
  5. Wild strawberry from open woods in Saint Paul, MN.
    • Found growing under tree cover adjacent to open area where it had spread across a low slope. The plants run wildly, but otherwise appear as a domesticated strawberry. Ripe berries have not been observed.
  6. Wild strawberry from Fairbanks, AK.
    • I don't actually have this plant yet, but I will be visiting central Alaska in the coming months and totally expect to do some botanizing while I'm there. The locals tell me that there are wonderful wild strawberries and I plan to pick up a few plants. They should be very cold-hardy and produce berries very early in the season. The big question is if they will be able to survive the heat of a mid-west summer.
  7. Domesticated strawberries (mixed varieties) from Minneapolis, MN.
    • These appear to be producing large berries, like you might find in stores. Some of the plants were described as being "alpine" strawberries, but their lack of distinction from the others makes me question this claim. For now the "alpine" variety is planted separately.
I've got some photos of the various plants, but a comprehensive photo-shoot will have to wait until I get them all planted in a soon-to-be-constructed garden bed (with some way to keep the deer at bay) for them.

The other day I made the pleasant discovery that one of my raspberry plants is in flower at the same time as the various strawberries. I've got too much going on (in and out of the garden) to attempt crossing my strawberries to it this spring, but it is definitely in the plans for next year.