Woodland Strawberry

Alternative Lawns – Ground Cover Species

picture of woodland strawberry patch
Woodland strawberry patch: © 2006 Vivian Parker

Woodland Strawberry Fragaria vesca & Fragaria virginiana

Overview: Low growing native perennial, produces berries in the summer, found in woodlands but highly adaptable to different environments.

Landscaping: Low growing cover spreads by stolons and rhizomes, semi-evergreen, great use to fill bare ground in full sun to partially shaded areas of the yard. Grows best in fertile well-drained soils.  Will not tolerate wet locations.

Time to forage: Berries ripen from June to July, leaves throughout the growing season.

Identification: Semi-evergreen toothed leaves in groups of three; flowers consist of 5 white petals with yellow centers; berries are conical in shape, red, and have seeds protruding from the sides.

Where to find it: Found in woodlands and forested areas, highly adaptable to differentenvironments.

Edible parts of plant: Berries are highly desirable, smaller than cultivated berries but said to be sweeter in taste; leaves can be eaten raw, cooked, or brewed into a tea.

Tips for foraging: Pick berries, ensure that the berry is free from the “hull”; beware of the look-a-like false strawberry, which has a berry with a bumpier surface and does not taste sweet.

Ethnobotany: The Potawatomi have used the berries as a food source, often preserving them for winter use. The roots have also been used for medicinal purposes.

Importance to natural resources: Native to Iowa, berries serve as a food source to many different kinds of wildlife including grouse and songbirds, plants often fill in the “bare” ground space and provide cover for smaller wildlife, flowers serve as a food source for pollinators.

Nutritional value (per 100 grams): Provides 7.5% of Vitamin A and 75% of the daily requirement per 100 gram serving (about 3 cups).

Recipes: Wild Strawberry Preserves:
• 1 ½ cups of fresh wild strawberries
• 2 Tbsp lemon juice
• ¾ cup sugar
• Pinch salt
Combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and salt and bring to a rolling boil, and cook stirring frequently for 15-20 minutes. Transfer the mixture to hot sterile jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace and seal. Process jars for 10 minutes in a water bath.

Additional References:
Native Foods Nursery
Wild Food Girl
Staking Wild Asparagus By Euell Gibbons (1962)
Native American Ethnobotany
United States Forest Service Fire Effects Information System

Seed Sources: 

Morning Sky Greenery 
Natural Communities 
Prairie Moon Nursery 
Prairie Nursery