Friday, April 01, 2005

Duchesnea Indica Unmasked

While pursuing my botany degree, I learned to identify many native plants – on the West Coast. Here, in Ohio, I might as well be on the moon. Nothing is familiar. Since our arrival in July, I have been inspecting and attempting to identify the local flora.

I first noticed what appeared to be small strawberry plants on the back side of our ghetto apartment on Ohio street. They had tri-foliate leaves, runners, and small, strawberry-like fruits. When we bought our house, I noticed the plant again. I mentioned it to the real estate agent and he said that these “wild strawberries” were a local lawn nuisance. Indeed, they have taken over the shady backyard. Unconvinced that these truly were strawberries (I did not taste the fruit, but squished it and found it to be very dry), I posted a question on GardenWeb. Again, the verdict came back: wild strawberries.

Quite by accident, I discovered the true identity of these plants while searching for shade-loving plants. Duchesnea indica, commonly known as Indian Mock-Strawberry, originates in Eastern and southern Asia. It is a great shade plant, but quickly becomes invasive. The berries are edible, but dry and tasteless. The leaves are nearly identical to strawberry leaves, except for a difference in how much of the leaflet is toothed. The flowers are a dead giveaway, though. Mock strawberry’s flowers are yellow and a true strawberry’s flowers are white. I haven't seen the bloom yet.

So, mystery solved. I may still be nescient of the area’s native flora, but I’m getting to know the imported weeds!


Blogger Faster Pussycat said...

Don't knock em til you taste 'em. I personally love wild strawberries, and would be thriled if my backyard came stocked with a patch. Of course, you'd have to be sure the local dogs stayed out of the yard, too. We had them in the house i grew up in and they never took over the yard, but did provide a few minutes of happy picking and munching on a summer's day. As with a lot of fruits, the smaller ones are sweeter. Try one!

12:36 PM  

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