May Weed - Mock Strawberry
This month Mary Anna Anderson, UNL Extension, describes a plant that you may have misidentified in the past. After reading her article, take a closer look at what you thought were wild strawberries. The color of the flower is one of the give-aways of this weed.
Potentilla indica was recently changed from Duchesnea indica, orignally Fragaria indica. The plant was recently moved into the Potentilla genus as it was decided that it is most closely related to potentilla plants.
Common Names: mock strawberry, false strawberry, Indian strawberry, snake berry, she mei, and Indian mock strawberry.
Description: Resembles strawberry plants. It has trifoliate leaves that look like strawberry leaves, and also has stolons. Mock strawberry leaves can be evergreen or semi-evergreen.The flowers are yellow rather than the white flowers of the true strawberries. The fruit at first is a mass of red seeds, but can expand to be rounded and appear to be a small bloated strawberry, still very seedy. The most common description of the flavor of the fruit is "insipid."
Where: Lawns, agricultural areas, natural forests, planted forests, riparian zones, disturbed, wetlands. It will grow well in full shade. It can be grown in containers as an ornamental.
Propagation: It can spread by stolons. Seeds can be purchased online.
Historical: Native to eastern and China and Japan. It was introduced to the United States as an ornamental and now has become a weed.
What: Often mistakenly called wild strawberry Fragaria vesca, which is a flavorful true strawberry. People are disappointed when they taste this "strawberry" and find it does not have the flavor of a strawberry. Mock strawberry grows from USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. It is drought tolerant.
Pros: Introduced as a groundcover, mock strawberry has proponents as it will grow hot dry areas of the U.S. The plant also has fans who find it attractive to use in container gardens. The fruit and leaves are considered edible and medicinal. The fruit contains healthy elements such as vitamin C, protein, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. The leaves also area edible as a pot herb.
According to Belarmine University, "The entire plant is medicinal as an anticoagulant, antiseptic, depurative (purifier) and febrifuge (fever reducer). The herb can be used for stomatitis (an inflammation of the mucus lining), laryngitis, and acute tonsillitis. The fresh leaves can be crushed and applied externally as a medicinal poultice, a soft and moist mass. It is used in the treatment of boils and abscesses, burns, weeping eczema, ringworm, snake and insect bites, and traumatic injuries. A decoction of the leaves is medicinal and used in the treatment of swellings. An infusion, or liquid extract, of the flowers is used to activate the blood circulation. The Indian Strawberry can cure skin diseases as well. In folklore it is said that in India it is to be used as an offering to the gods. The Wild Indian Strawberry is used extensively in China as a medicinal herb, and is being studied for its ability to stop the HIV virus and some forms of cancer from spreading through the body."
It is used to reduce swelling and in the treatment of skin problems such abscesses, eczema and ringworm, infections such as laryngitis and tonsillitis, as well as snake and insect bites.
The berries supposedly can help stretch other berries when making jam and jelly. The berries have been used to make a mild jelly or juice. Uses include raw berries, raw leaves in salads, leaves cooked as a green, and leaves dried for tea.
Cons: Even though the plant still can be ordered online, mock strawberry is considered an invasive weed by many. It is just as difficult to eliminate from the landscape as ground ivy/creeping Charlie.
Photos of the Mock Strawberry are by John Fech, UNL Extension; and Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten, and Petra Ballings at Encyclopedia of Life.
Bellarmine University site: http://www.bellarmine.edu/faculty/drobinson/IndianStrawberry.asp)