Description & Overview

Wild Strawberry is a low-growing, sprawling, native perennial. Bunches of basal leaves grow along a stem that roots at the base of each leaf group, creating a dense groundcover. In late spring, small white flowers rise from the leaves on short peduncles, giving way to a small, ½ inch strawberry.

You may also know Wild Strawberry as Virginia Strawberry.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 3-6 inches

Mature Spread: 12-24 inches

Growth Rate: Fast

Growth Form: Low spreading, groundcover

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Site Requirements: Dry, average to slightly acidic soil. Drought tolerant once established.

Flower: White, 5 petals, ½ - ¾", perfect

Bloom Period: April to June

Foliage: Green, basal leaves that are 3 - parted (trifoliate), may be slightly hairy underneath

Fall Color: Red - maroon

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: A ½" red strawberry with seeds inside. Berries appear in early Summer (June)

Suggested Uses

Wild Strawberry is found throughout Wisconsin along woodland edges, limestone glades, meadows, and prairies.
In nature this can be a short-lived perennial, often appearing in one location and spreading rapidly for several years before slowly disappearing over time. Strawberry is an excellent choice as a native groundcover due to its love of dry soils, full sun, and rapid spread. One plant can turn out ten smaller plants by the end of one growing season.

Edible Garden: This is a tasty addition to a raised bed edible garden as the fruit can be used similarly to a store-bought strawberry, though it is admittedly much smaller. This is one of the best plants to teach children about plants and gardening as they are fast-growing, low to the ground, and make delicious berries. This is made only better by the fact that they self-propagate by runners, which makes it easy for kids to start propagating plants.

Erosion Control: Wild Strawberry is great for slope/bank stabilization. They prefer dry, well-drained (loose) soil and quickly spreading, covering the ground easily with a network of stabilizing roots. Its propensity to spread for years and then slowly die off is especially convenient if there is a desire for taller, slower-growing plants on the site. Wild Strawberry is the perfect plant to provide erosion control during a larger plant’s establishment as it is rather short-lived.

Pollinator/Butterfly Garden: Butterflies, bees, and more will flock to the flowers for their nectar, pollinating the flowers and in turn providing berries. It is important to note that the strawberries will very likely attract other forms of wildlife to your yard. This is a plus.

Lawn Substitute: For those looking for an alternative to lawn or turf, Wild Strawberry is an excellent choice. It is native, attracts wildlife, provides flowers, and edible berries provide a pop of color. As a groundcover, it helps to keep the soil cool, a feature that would benefit many companion plants.

Wild Strawberry is a low-growing, sprawling, native perennial. Bunches of basal leaves grow along a stem that roots at the base of each leaf group, cr…
Wild Strawberry is a low-growing, sprawling, native perennial. Bunches of basal leaves grow along a stem that roots at the base of each leaf group, cr…

Wildlife Value

Wildlife loves strawberries as much as people do! The list of critters that will feast on a patch of Wild Strawberries is long as it’s among the earliest fleshy fruits available in the season and key for fruit-eating wildlife.

Wild Strawberry is the larval host plant to the Gray Hairstreak butterfly and the Purple-lined Sallow, Smeared Dagger Moth, Smith’s Dart, and Crocus Geometer moths. The Cobweb Skipper Butterfly feeds on Wild Strawberry, along with other native plants such as Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) and Hoary Vervain (Verbena hastata/stricta). It is mainly pollinated by specialized bees such as Carpenter, cuckoo, mason, Halictid, and Andrenid bees.

Squirrels, chipmunks, deer, grouse, Black Bears, deer mice, raccoons, White-footed Mice, voles, and opossums will readily eat the fruits. If the strawberries are meant for human consumption then you will need to make a plan to protect a precious few. Do consider leaving many unprotected for the benefit of wildlife. Every bit helps!

The Wisconsin-threatened Wood turtle and the endangered Ornate Box turtle will happily feast upon Wild strawberries.

Some upland gamebirds and songbirds eat the fruits, including the American Robin, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, and Veery, as well as pheasants, and crows.

Maintenance Tips

Wild Strawberry would benefit from division every three to four years. Best to give it some space as this will prevent powdery mildew.

Though it does well in dry soil and can handle drought, supplemental water in late spring and early summer will support the plant while developing its fruit, giving a higher yield of berries.

Mulching plants before winter is important and will keep the soil moisture level and more consistent for fruit development.

Should you want those strawberries for yourself, maintaining a cage/fence/netting will be crucial to meeting that goal. Most wildlife wants those oh-so-delicious berries!

Wild Strawberry is a low-growing, sprawling, native perennial. Bunches of basal leaves grow along a stem that roots at the base of each leaf group, cr…

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Fruit but not the leaves
Rabbit Resistant: Fruit but not the leaves

Wild Strawberry is susceptible to spider mites and aphids, rots, wilts, powdery mildew, and blight; however, this native is more resistant to these issues than most cultivated varieties.

Deer and rabbits will eat the fruit but not the leaves.

Leaf Lore

Historically, many plants in this genus were mulched with straw to combat the possible onset of fungal diseases, hence the common name “strawberry.”

The genus Fragaria comes from the Latin word “fraga” for strawberry, a derivative of “fragrans” meaning fragrant, in allusion to the perfume of the fruit. The specific epithet virginiana means “of Virginia.”

This is not the fruit that you find at supermarkets, which is a hybridization between Wild Strawberry and Chilean Strawberry, and perhaps others.

Tea from the dried leaves was used to treat dysentery.

Botanically speaking, the red part of the strawberry is not a true berry but rather a structure known as an aggregate accessory fruit. This fruit came not from the ovaries of the flower, but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries. This fruit holds achenes-the black or yellow specks on the outside of the fruit.

Companion Plants

If the purpose of using Wild Strawberries is for erosion control, then Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata), Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) would make excellent companion plantings.

If you are looking for companion plants to use as a native groundcover then ideal mates include Canada Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), Bigleaf Aster (Eurybia macrophylla), Starry False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum stellatum), False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum), Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), and Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoidea).

Other pollinator plants like Canada Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides), Wild Senna (Cassia hebecarpa), Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), and Leadplant (Amorpha canescens), would combine well with Wild Strawberry.

If seeking a native edible garden then plant alongside Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), Running Serviceberry (Amelanchier stolonifera), Carolina Rose (Rosa carolina), Gooseberry (Ribes missouriense), American Black Currant (Ribes americanum), American Filbert (Corylus americana), American Plum (Prunus americana), and American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). Yum!

Wild Strawberry is a low-growing, sprawling, native perennial. Bunches of basal leaves grow along a stem that roots at the base of each leaf group, cr…
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Written by Beth DeLain