Mock Strawberry

Duchesnea indica

by Ana M. Castro

Duchesnea indica is commonly known as the mock strawberry or Indian strawberry because it originated in India. It is an interesting plant because it resembles an ordinary strawberry that you might put on top of strawberry shortcake or make into a delicious jelly to be spread on top of your morning toast. However, even though the mock strawberry is edible, it has almost no flavor!

The mock strawberry is in the phylum Anthophyta (the flowering plants), the class Dicotyledonae (the Dicots), the order Rosidae (the Rose order), and the family Rosaceae (the Rose family). It can be identified by its dark, green leaves, bright one-inch wide, yellow flowers and small, red fruits that resemble the fruits of the wild strawberry. The mock strawberry is actually a weed that can grow up to six inches high. The flowers and fruits usually grow to ½ inch. Each leaf is composed of three leaflets. You can tell the difference between the mock strawberry and the wild strawberry by looking at the leaflets. The mock strawberry’s leaflets are hairy with small, rounded teeth. The wild strawberry’s leaflets have pointed teeth only on the upper ¾ part of the leaflet. Also, the mock strawberry has yellow flowers, unlike the white flowers of the wild strawberry.

Duchesnea indica is often used in landscapes throughout the southeastern United States. It is a fast growing evergreen perennial. The mock strawberry lives in shady places in the woods, grassy slopes and ravines in low mountains. It prefers moist soil in a sunny area. It also grows well in a rock garden. Even though it is a wild growing weed, many people like to use it as a ground cover or for a bed edging. It is also commonly used in hanging baskets and flower pots due to its ornamental appearance. The strawberry-like fruits appear in late summer, which add to its decorative appearance. However, one problem is that it can invade other areas by overgrowing smaller perennials.

The mock strawberry can be seen right here in Radford, Va. at our very own Wildwood Park and also in lawns. Because it is a weed and not a native part of our flora, it is not really desirable in our park. You may be drawn to this weed by its strawberry-like characteristics and may even be tempted to pick off a berry for a light, juicy afternoon snack. However, remember that you may be disappointed by its lack of taste. It is best to admire the mock strawberry only by looking at it and not tasting it!

Written fall 2000, as a service learning project for Dr. Gary Coté's Biology 102 class at Radford University. Copyright Pathways for Radford.

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