Facts About Strawberry Plants

At first glance, you'd likely not think that a strawberry plant is a close relative of a garden rosebush. Based on the flower structure, it is, as both are members of the family Rosaceae and the subfamily Rosoideae. Strawberries, along with blackberries and raspberries, are regarded as "false berries" by botanists because they are an aggregation of tiny fruits called drupes on a tasty, fleshy and juicy stem.

Name Origin

The Latin generic name of strawberries, Fragaria, refers to the delicious fragrance of the fruit. The English name "strawberry" is likely a corruption of the word "strew," referring to the running stems that strew and spread across the ground according to the authors of "Economic Botany: Plants in Our World."

Geographic Distribution

Strawberries are native to sunny meadows and woodlands in North America, the southern Andes of South America, Europe and southern and western Asia. All 12 species produce small, edible fruits.

Modern Strawberries

Wild strawberries' fruit are generally quite small, less than 1/2 inch in size. In 1646, Europeans came in contact with a Chilean wild strawberry species of particular vigor and delicious fruit. By 1750 a cross between the Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) and the Chilean strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) occurred in a European garden, the origins to the robust and larger-fruiting strawberry plants (Fragaria x ananassa) grown in gardens today according to "Economic Botany: Plants in Our World."

Cultivation

Strawberry plants grow in full sun to partially shaded garden locations, such as under the dappled shade of a nearby tree. The plants prosper in a fertile, moist but well-draining soil that is neutral or slightly alkaline (pH 7.0 to 8.0). They grow well in acidic soils, too. Strawberries are most easily grown in gardens located in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 through 8.

Fruit Characteristics

Even though we call them "berries," the strawberry that we eat has an intriguing structure that is not a true botanical berry. In the center of the flower is a rounded core of ovaries, that when pollinated by bees, develop into many tiny fruits called achenes. To the human eye, these achenes look like that tiny yellow seeds or specks on the strawberry fruit. The red color and flesh of the fruit is the result of the tissues that held the ovary swelling and ripening and fusing to the ovary next to it, eventually creating a succulent, juicy mass we are familiar.

Keywords: Fragaria, strawberry plants, strawberries, achene, aggregate fruits, rose family fruits

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.