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ORRIN MORRIS: Indian strawberry blooms February through October

INDIAN STRAWBERRY Duchesnea indica

INDIAN STRAWBERRY Duchesnea indica

God is always extravagant in the blessings He provides in the wildflower kingdom.

I saw the first dandelion bloom two weeks ago. Even though we have had severe winter days, several early wildflowers will likely bloom this month: bloodroot, henbit, cinquefoil, and chickweed (which can found on pages 9, 79, 57, and 3 of my book, “Consider the Lilies: Volume 1”).

Even the poorest and most destitute people in our counties soon will be surrounded with an abundance of wildflowers. Note Psalm 112:9, “He has scattered abroad His gifts to the poor, His righteousness endures forever …”

Often we overlook the most common wildflowers. Such is the one we examine today.

INDIAN STRAWBERRY

Duchesnea indica

The plant that locals call wild strawberry is the mock strawberry or Indian strawberry. I use the term Indian because of the horticulturalist’s term “indica.”

This plant is not native to the United States but was introduced by some unknown immigrant from Asia, or possibly India. It is very hardy and a frequent pest in urban lawns. It starts blooming as early as February and will keep creating “berries” into late October.

The real wild strawberry (Fragaria virginica) is delicious, with very rich flavor similar to that of the cultivated variety; however, it grows in the mountains farther north.

The Indian strawberry has a strange red fruit with tiny seeds all over it, as illustrated. Its flavor leaves much to be desired by us. However, the cuisine of many Asian cultures prefer a subdued sweetness, much milder than the sugar-induced sweet tooth of many Americans.

Indian strawberry is easily confused with the cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex). Several years ago I attended a conference in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. At the noon break, I gathered a handful of wildflowers and sketched them that afternoon (while listening to the lecturer, of course).

I thought I had a beautiful sketch of cinquefoil until I separated the plants to make notes on roots, stems, leaves, and so forth. It was then I discovered I had Indian strawberries.

Generally, the 3-inch leaves have very similar designs and when intertwined, as my cluster of leaves were, they were easily misinterpreted. The Indian strawberry has a three-part leaf while the cinquefoil has a five-part leaf.

Later in the year, the fruit is a more certain signal since the Indian strawberry has that eye-catching red berry, whereas the cinquefoil has none. Both trail along the ground and the yellow flowers each produces rarely rise more than 3 inches above the ground.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.