About The Virginia Strawberry

(Fragaria Virginiana) Rose family

Flowers—White, loosely clustered at summit of an erect hairy scape usually shorter than the leaves. Calyx persistent in fruit, deeply 5-cleft, with 5 bracts between the divisions ; 5 petals ; stamens and pistils numerous, the latter inserted on a cushion-like receptacle becoming fleshy in fruit. Staminate and pistillate flowers, from separate roots. Stem : Running, and forming new plants. Leaves: Tufted from the root, on hairy petioles 2 to 6 in. tall, compounded of 3 broadly oval, saw-edged leaflets. Fruit: An ovoid, glistening red berry, the minute achenes imbedded in pits on its surface. Ripe, June July. (Latin, fragum=fragrant fruit, the strawberry.)

Preferred Habitat-Dry fields, banks, roadsides, woodlands.

Flowering Season—April—June.

Distribution—New Brunswick to the Gulf of Mexico, and westward to Dakota.

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubt-less God never did.” Whether one is kneeling in the fields, gathering the sun-kissed, fragrant, luscious, wet scarlet berries nodding among the grass, or eating the huge cultivated fruit smothered with sugar and cream, one fervently quotes Dr. Boteler with dear old Izaak Walton. Shakespeare says : ” My lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn, I saw good strawberries in your garden there.” Is not this the first reference to the strawberry under cultivation ? Since the time of Henry V., what multitudes of garden varieties past the reckoning have been evolved from the smooth, conic European Wood Strawberry (F. vesca) now naturalized in our Eastern and Middle States, as well as from our own precious pitted native ! Some authorities claim the berry received its name from the straw laid between garden rows to keep the fruit clean, but in earliest Anglo-Saxon it was called streowberie, and later straberry, from the peculiarity of its straying suckers lying as if strewn on the ground ; and so, after making due allowance for the erratic, go-as-you-please spelling of early writers, it would seem that there might be two theories as to the origin of the name.

Since the different sexes of these flowers frequently occur on separate plants, good reason have they to woo insect messengers with a showy corolla, a ring of nectar, and abundant pollen to be transferred while they are feasted. Lucky is the gardener who succeeds in keeping birds from pecking their share of the berries which, of course, were primarily intended for them. In English gardens one is almost certain to find a thrush or two imprisoned under the nets so futilely spread over strawberry beds, just as their American cousin, the robin, is caught here in June.

A young botanist may be interested to note the difference in the formation of the raspberry or blackberry and the strawberry: in the former it is the carpels (ovaries) that swell around the spongy receptacle into numerous little fruits (drupelets) united into one berry, whereas it is the cushion-like receptacle itself in the strawberry blossom that swells and reddens into fruit, carrying with it the tiny yellow pistils to the surface.

The Northern Wild Strawberry (F. Canadensis), with clusters of elongated, oblong little berries delightful to three senses, comes over the Canadian border no farther south than the Catskills. Nearly all strawberry plants show the useless but charming eccentricity of bursting into bloom again in autumn, the little white-petalled blossoms coming like unexpected flurries of snow.

No one will confuse our common, fruiting species with the small, yellow-flowered Dry or Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides), more nearly related to the cinquefoils. Tufts of its pretty trefoliate leaves, sent up from a creeping rootstock, carpet the woods and hillsides from New England and along the Alleghanies to Georgia, and westward a thousand miles or more. Flowers in May and June.