Wild strawberries are perennial plants, belonging to the genus Fragaria, and they are related to roses. The stems are slightly hairy and attach a trifoliate leaf, and they spread through runners attached to the parent plant. The flowers are small and white and produce sweet edible berries studded with seeds. Recent scientific discoveries on wild strawberry properties have prompted closer study, as investigations have shown that strawberries have anti-cancer elements, multiple chromosomes, and research is also providing an answer to sexual assignment in plants, among other findings.
Wild strawberries have been found to have a higher number of chromosome sets than cultivated strawberries. Some have a normal double set, but others can have up to eight, and even more if crossed. High numbers of chromosomes were probably the result of the unification of gametes (reproductive cells), and they produce larger than normal pollen grains. The Asian wild strawberry bears the highest number of chromosomes at eight and it also has a higher amount of DNA. Multiple chromosomes in an organism are called polyploidy.
Strawberries and Sex
Genetic mapping has helped scientists discover how strawberries can be male, female, hermaphrodite or neuter. The findings pinned the answer on the proto-sex chromosome, of which strawberries have two. The proto-sex chromosomes contain two spots with sex determining genes. One spot controls fertility and sterility in males, and the other controls the same traits in females. When a plant inherits both fertility genes, it is a hermaphrodite and can self-breed. If it inherits both sterile genes, it is neuter. The male and female plants have one of each gene. The genes are thought to be responsible for the evolution from asexual to sexual reproduction.
A study led by Dr. Shiow Y. Wang set out to investigate the anticancer and antioxidant properties of wild strawberries. Of the varieties studied, seven showed a higher antioxident content and a better ability to affect cancer cells. The study will be used to help strawberry producers develop a "super" strawberry that can be marketed to health-conscious buyers who want to increase their antioxidant intake.
Tarnished Plant Bug
Research has been conducted on how to reduce damage from tarnished bugs in strawberry crops. The research centered on which species might be most resistant to the bugs. The study set out 200 clone plants: 95 were named species, 65 were clones of wild strawberry, and 40 were hybrid wild strawberry. The idea was to see which plants sustained the least damage when exposed to tarnished bugs. The wild strawberry showed the most resistance and was the least damaged, paving the way for more wild strawberry crosses to promote resistance in crop fruit.
Research is in progress on the use of wild strawberry leaf extract as a beneficial medical application in cardiac care. Aqueous solutions of wild strawberry were compared to the effects from hawthorn leaves with flowers. Scientists found that the heart rate was not adversely affected when the wild strawberry was used and the increase in coronary flow was similar to that with the hawthorn extract. They concluded that the aqueous wild strawberry extract had good potential for use in cardiac care as a vasodilator (an agent that widens the lumen of the blood vessels).