Every spring there is a little competition going on among the ground covers in my front yard. Creeping Charlie, Bugleweed, and Mock Strawberries are fighting for their own piece of real estate. By late spring, these low-growing plants are all intertwined in a thick mat of brilliant colors.
Now at the end of May, the mock strawberries are loaded with dark, red fruit, and consequently, they are winning the competition for my eye’s attention. The ripening fruit looks delicious, and beckons the child in me to eat a few. Sadly, even at peak ripeness, the fruits are rather dry and disappointingly tasteless! I guess that’s why they call them “mock” strawberries!
Mock strawberries are not native. They were introduced from Asia as ornamentals, but now that they have spread across the Southeastern US, they are considered weeds. In habit they are much like our native wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana)– the leaves grow in groups of three and have scalloped margins; the plant creeps along the ground by runners and only reaches 2-3 inches in height. Unlike wild strawberries, which have white flowers, the 5-petalled flowers of mock strawberry are yellow.
You’ll notice that the fruit of mock strawberry is covered by tiny red bumps. That’s because the fruit is actually an aggregate of many smaller fruits. Each read “bump” is an “achene”- a tiny fruit containing its own separate seed. Small mammals and birds will spread the seeds when they pick the attractive fruit and take it elsewhere.
Other names for this plant include Indian Strawberry and False Strawberry. Another scientific name is Potentilla indica.