Few things are more exciting to a green thumb than strolling about outside and discovering a native fruit-producing plant growing wild. I’ve had several such occurrences in just the last few years. I was as giddy as a kid in a candy shop a while back when I noticed a mulberry tree laden with dark, almost black fruit tempting me with its heavy branch hanging over my head and almost brushing my hair on a sidewalk in the middle of a suburban setting. I guess no one ever thought to cut down the tree growing near the runoff drain, but I harvested as many fresh mulberries as I could before I had to leave the area. I’ve often stumbled into wild blackberry thickets in my wanderings, and just last year I discovered four wild American persimmon trees not a mile from my dwelling place.
While blackberries are generally loved and known by everyone, mulberries are less known, and knowledge of persimmons is confined to a fairly small group within the general population. Strawberries, however, are the A-List celebrities of the fruit world. Virtually everyone loves them. So, many people who find what they believe to be wild strawberries in their yard often ask me, “Why aren’t my wild strawberries with yellow flowers producing any strawberries?!” Well, here’s why:
- Strawberries with Yellow Flowers … Aren’t.
- So, What Are “Strawberry Plants” with Yellow Flowers?
- The Yellow Flower Strawberries Are Edible
- Strawberry Plants with Yellow Flowers: Conclusion
- Mock Strawberries
- What Weeds Look Like Strawberry Plants?
- False Strawberries (Potentilla indica)
- Indian mock strawberry
- Life cycle
- Growth habit
- Conditions that favor growth
- Management In Lawns
Strawberries with Yellow Flowers … Aren’t.
Strawberries simply do not have yellow flowers. Wild strawberries and most of the strawberry varieties available from nurseries all have white flowers. A few of the F1 hybrids have pink or reddish blossoms, but none have yellow flowers. Maybe genetic engineering will see some purpose in turning a strawberry plant into a strawberry-like variant with yellow petals, but nature signifies something else by putting the canary color on its buds. Namely, that you aren’t looking at a strawberry at all. Rather, you are beholding a somewhat invasive weed that is native to eastern and southern Asia.
So, What Are “Strawberry Plants” with Yellow Flowers?
The weeds that appear to be strawberries with yellow flowers are a close cousin of the strawberry. Coming from the same family, Rosacae, it is of a different Genus: Potentilla. The most commonly encountered trickster in the United States is Potentilla indica. Its appearance is very similar to the familiar garden strawberry with dark green trifoliate leaves, and crowns that produce runner plants (stolons) similar in appearance to those of the Fragaria genus. They often survive winter and invade their territory on a perennial basis as well. Due to these traits, they can easily be mistaken for true strawberries, and often are. The resemblances have given rise to a number of names for the weed. They are most commonly called mock strawberries or false strawberries, Gubir or Indian strawberries, or, as I called them as a child, snake berries.
The Yellow Flower Strawberries Are Edible
The fruit from Potentilla indica are actually edible. They aren’t poisonous, but they aren’t exactly enjoyable to eat either. They are gritty, mealy, and either bland or bitter. The achenes (they contain the seeds) that cover the outer surface of the fruit also detract from the consumption experience, if the taste itself wasn’t enough. So, unless curiosity gets the better of you, there is no need to ever bite into the unpleasant fruits. They are edible, but who would want to eat them?!
Strawberry Plants with Yellow Flowers: Conclusion
If you stumble across some plants in your back yard that appear similar to strawberry plants this spring, watch them carefully. While strawberry plants do grow wild in the United States and most of the rest of the temperate world, they are typically much harder to find than the non-native false strawberry weed. If you think you have some delightful wild strawberries growing near you, just observe them until their flowers bloom. If they are white, you are in for a treat! If they are yellow, feel no remorse in introducing the plants to an untimely demise…
You may have noticed this little strawberry plant sprouting yellow blossoms in your yard and wondered where it might have come from, since you’re sure you didn’t plant it. Then you notice these juicy strawberries on it that look a bit different from actual strawberries since their seeds stick out so much more. You pick them and discover that they taste rather bland and are nothing like you expected. There’s a good chance that what you’ve just eaten is a mock strawberry. We’re going to go over this little, unexpected, and often unknown plant, but before we do, we want to tell you not to worry — you haven’t just poisoned yourself.
What’s a Mock Strawberry?
Mock strawberries are also known as Indian strawberries or snakeberries, depending on where you’re located. This name can be confusing for some because “snakeberry” is also the nickname of a poisonous plant in the nightshade family. This often leads people to believe that mock strawberries are toxic when not eaten in moderation.
Mock strawberry plants are decidedly invasive in nature. Scientifically, the plant is known as Duchesnea indica, but it’s also sometimes referred to as Potentilla indica. This genus is different from that of real strawberries, Fragaria, though they are both members of the rose family.
As you can see, they look just like strawberry plants (hence the name). They hug the ground, produce runners with solitary flowers that come up from their stems, and have leaves that mimic those of true strawberry plants. They are usually about two and a half inches tall, though they can be longer than a foot if you factor in the runners. Their flowers have five petals and are yellow in color, while their compound leaves have jagged edges like teeth. Both the stems and leaves appear hairy. This plant forms a fruit that looks like a spiky seeded strawberry but lacks the flavor and juiciness of the real thing. Some people claim that they taste like watermelon, but many others just find them bland.
Where Did They Come From?
Mock strawberries were initially found on the Indian subcontinent, which explains their species name indica. They were brought over to the United States to be used as ornamental plants, because they do make for some pretty ground cover when they’re in bloom. Due to their invasive nature, they can often pop up in areas where they haven’t been planted by gardeners. Squirrels and other animals often help these plants get around by transporting their seeds to new areas. In fact, they can be found pretty much all over the United States and Canada.
Uses of Mock Strawberries
The good news is that those mock strawberries you have popping up in your yard aren’t a complete waste. They are actually good for a few things. As we already mentioned, they make for great-looking ground cover. Ground cover (i.e. cover crops) helps keep your soil moist and pumps nutrients back into it after the growing season has ended. It also helps keep out unwanted weeds.
It’s important to note that mock strawberries are not poisonous. Some people even use the plant for medicinal purposes (it’s particularly popular in traditional Chinese medicine). For instance, you can make a poultice out of mock strawberries to treat eczema and other skin conditions.
Some people dry the plant’s leaves and make them into a tea. The berries are also great to use when you’re short on other varieties and in the middle of making jam or jelly, since their flavor likely won’t impede the taste of the berries you’re mainly using. Some even like making mock strawberries into a juice or mild jelly all on their own. In fact, 100 ml of mock strawberry juice contains an impressive 6.3 mg of Vitamin C.
Harvesting Mock Strawberries
You’ll want to collect mock strawberries just as you would regular strawberries. To protect your plants, you’ll want to be careful when removing ripe berries. Wait until they’re juicy red, appear bloated, bending back the base of the leaves around them (the calyx), and their seeds are spread out. You can then either wash them and try eating them or store them for a short period of time to use in your cooking later on. It’s often a good idea to wait to rinse them until you’re ready to eat or use them, since washing usually results in a faster rate of decay.
Now you have a better idea of what those little yellow strawberry-like plants are in your backyard. They may not have been the surprise strawberries you were hoping for, but for many, they still offer some nice benefits to both the yard and the kitchen.
What Weeds Look Like Strawberry Plants?
The Shape of a Strawberry
Before you can identify weeds, you must know what the real thing looks like. Strawberries are perennial plants that grow in USDA Zone 3 to 11. They have basal leaves (leaves at the bottom only) composed of three leaflets to one stem. The edges are serrated. Flowers are usually white, with five to eight petals and an ivory to cream center. The fruits are easily recognizable – red and heart-shaped, with small surface seeds. The plants spread by offshoots called runners.
The Most Common Weeds
Weeds that can look like strawberries may be members of the same family or completely unrelated. Here are the once you’re most likely to see in your garden:
- Cinquefoils, also known as the barren strawberry; inedible fruits.
- Wild Strawberries; edible fruits but not very sweet or palatable.
- Mock Strawberries; bland to bitter fruits.
- Wood Strawberries; invasive but sometimes used as a groundcover.
Cinquefoils can be the hardest to recognize as they are very similar in appearance. However, their fruits are often rounded rather than heart-shaped. Wild strawberries have much smaller fruits than garden strawberries. True strawberries have white or pink flowers, while wild strawberry plants produce yellow flowers. Sometimes the only way to make an identification is to let them develop fruit.
Why to Eliminate These Weeds
While some people use these plants as groundcovers, most people prefer to avoid them in favor of other choices. These weeds are typically invasive – especially the mock and wood strawberries. They can easily take over a flower or garden bed by throwing out runners that root and quickly form new plants. They will also grow readily in lawns. Fragile plants can’t withstand them, although they may be all right in a shrubbery bed.
How to Eliminate Weeds
There are really only two ways to get rid of these weeds once they show up. The first is to sterilize the soil by covering it with heavy clear plastic. Pin or weight down and let the sunlight bake the plants for a week or more. Rake well, removing all debris to prevent regrowth. The second is to pull them up by hand, one plant at a time. Burn the debris. If you compost it, you may have the weeds in the compost pile.
False Strawberries (Potentilla indica)
By Environmental Management System
When people think about Fragaria spp they immediately conjure visions of a large, red juicy, delicious, chin-wiping delicacy. That’s right a strawberry. These are the cultivated varieties that make our mouths water, but what about the wild berries that most of us recognized from childhood? In our yards, we’d find the three leaf plants year round and in the spring they’d have yellow flowers, and then shortly thereafter red berries about the size of your fingernail. These are the Indian or False Strawberries. Have you tried to eat them for most kids have? Delicious, juicy, palatable, well probably not unless you moonlight as a bird or turtle? Some guides say that they are poisonous but that’s false, a bellyache maybe if you eat too many.
Believe it or not, this little fellow is an exotic invasive in many areas. It’s believed to have originated in China and Japan and the tropical Asian region of India and Southeast Asia. They were introduced here by the USDA.
It’s known as Potentilla indica, previously as Duchesnea indica for its ability to multiple by stolons (above ground runners) and root as new plantlets at the nodes. This little strawberry can cause the homeowner some headaches by its growth habit. Over one summer, it can produce a network of plants that continue to grow during mild winters. It’s common to have plantlets every four to six inches in several directions. Pull on one plantlet and it’s liable to break before the next plantlet detaches. You end up getting one and leaving the rest. It’s frequently seen in yards and gardens, and can becomes a ground cover if not controlled. It’s not dangerous unless you have a bad back.
- Duchesnea or Indian Strawberry
Indian mock strawberry
(More Lawn Weeds)
Indian mock strawberry
Low, trailing, less than 1 ft. tall; stolons root to form a chain of new plants; trifoliate leaves with rounded teeth.
Reproduces by seeds and rooted stolons; flowers yellow with 5 petals followed by strawberry-like fruit.
Conditions that favor growth
Tolerates shade and close mowing. Likes moist areas.
Management In Lawns
- Cultural practices
Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment.
- Mechanical Management
Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and on young weeds. Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. Weeds with tap roots like dandelions or have a basal rosette (leaves clustered close to the ground) like plantain are easier to pull than weeds such as Bermudagrass (wiregrass) or creeping Charlie (ground ivy) that spread with stolons or creeping stems that root along the ground.
- Chemical Treatment in Lawns
Herbicides should be used as a last resort because of the potential risks to people, animals, and the environment. Be aware of these precautions first.
If you chose this option, spot treat weeds with a liquid, selective, postemergent, broadleaf weed killer applied when weeds are actively growing. Look for a product with one or more of the following active ingredients:
2, 4-D, MCPP (mecoprop), Dicamba* or Triclopyr.
*Do not spray herbicides containing dicamba over the root zone of trees and shrubs. Roots can absorb the product possibly causing plant damage. Refer to the product label for precautions.
- Organic Lawn Herbicides