1. Family: Rosaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Fragaria L.
      1. Fragaria vesca L.

        Woodland strawberry is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae).


    Rosaceae, R. A. Graham. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1960

    A tufted perennial, emitting from a central rootstock long stolons rooting at the nodes and forming new plants.
    Stipules red-brown, papery.
    Leaves petiolate, trifoliolate; leaflets ovate, oblong, or oblong-ovate, 3–4 × 2–3 cm., obtuse, basally cuneate to ± truncate, sharply serrated with rather few acute and large teeth, green above, with a few appressed hairs or glabrous, whitish below with silky appressed hairs; petiole densely covered with spreading, silky hairs, commonly 3–6 (but up to 25) cm. long; petiolules very short, the leaflets often subsessile.
    Inflorescence an erect, leafless cyme bearing about 5 flowers; flowering stems up to 15 cm. tall, hairy as the petioles.
    Flowers 12–18 mm. diameter.
    Calyx covered externally with appressed silky hairs; calyx-lobes ovate, acuminate, about 2.75 mm. long; epicalyx-lobes oblong, acute, nearly equalling the calyx-lobes.
    Petals white, obovate, ± 4 mm. long.
    Fruit ovoid or spherical, nodding and red or reddish when ripe.

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Woodland strawberry is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae).

    Strawberries have a history of being considered genus Fragaria, but recent research suggests they belong in the genus Potentilla, which includes plants commonly known as cinquefoils and barren strawberries. They also have long been associated with the genus Potentilla (since at least 1771, when Italian taxonomist Scopoli transferred Fragaria to Potentilla).

    The common name strawberry is thought to derive from streabariye used by a Benedictine monk in AD 995 to refer to the ‘straying’ habit of the plant due to its runners.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Woodland strawberry is native from the west of the Ural Mountains throughout northern Europe and across North America.

    It has the largest native range of the strawberries.


    Overview: Perennial herb up to about 30 cm tall, producing many long, spreading, above-ground stolons (runners).

    Leaves: In a basal rosette, glossy bright green, divided into three leaflets. Leaflets up to 6 cm long with a toothed margin, sparsely hairy on upper surface, with a fine greyish covering of hair beneath.

    Flowers: Up to 18 mm in diameter, usually bisexual, with five rounded white petals up to 5 mm long. Sepals (usually 10) up to 4 mm long. Scape (flower stalk) up to 30 cm long, each bearing 2–7 flowers.

    Fruit: ‘Fruit’ up to 1 cm long and composed of many small, hairless achenes (dry, thin-walled fruits) scattered on the surface of an enlarged, conical, fleshy red receptacle.

    Some important cultivars:

    ‘Alexandria’ – fruit small, red, sweet‘Alpine Yellow’ – fruit small, yellow, sweet‘Baron Solemacher’ – fruit small, red, acid to sweet‘Rügen’ – fruit large, red, aromatic, productive‘Semperflorens’ – alpine strawberry/ fraise du bois – to 25 cm, almost without runners, flowers and fruits small, flowers early summer and again in autumn‘Variegata’ – leaves variegated cream and grey-green What is a fruit?

    The juicy, edible part of a strawberry plant that is generally known as the fruit is in fact a swollen receptacle, on the surface of which the true fruits (resembling red or yellow pips) are embedded.


    The fragrant, juicy fruits of woodland strawberry have long been picked and eaten in the wild and provide a tasty treat for travellers today.

    Potentilla vesca was probably cultivated by the ancient Romans and Greeks and was grown across Europe by the 1300s. The plants produce rooted runners bearing small clusters of leaves, which can easily be removed from the parent plant and transported elsewhere for cultivation.

    A 16th century recipe for strawberry shortcake includes woodland strawberry and almond flour in its ingredients.

    Woodland strawberry is rarely cultivated on a commercial scale due to the small size of the fruits and low yield, but the fruits are perceived by many to have a superior flavour and are used in patisserie, particularly in France and central Europe. The cultivar Potentilla vesca ‘Semperflorens’, known as alpine strawberry, is a favourite for use in for European pastries.

    With its glossy green leaves and pretty white flowers, woodland strawberry can be planted as a semi-ornamental in herb and vegetable gardens. Potentilla vesca ‘Alexandria’ and P. vesca ‘Alpine Yellow’ are attractive cultivars for this purpose.

    Commercial strawberry production

    The main hybrid used in commercial strawberry production is Potentilla × ananassa . It was produced by crossing two American species, P. virginiana (a woodland species from eastern USA) and P. chiloensis (west coast pine strawberry, from the western coast of North and South America).

    Strawberries are an economically important crop, produced in significant quantities in more than 75 countries, with an annual production of more than 4000 megatonnes.

    They are used in desserts, jams, jellies, ice-cream, syrups, juices and bakery products (including strawberry shortcake) and are also sold fresh, canned, frozen, dried and freeze-dried. Fresh strawberries are traditionally eaten with cream in the UK or sour cream elsewhere in Europe.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Fourteen collections of Potentilla vesca seeds are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    This species at Kew

    Potentilla vesca can be seen growing in the Queen’s Garden (behind Kew Palace) and the Conservation Area at Kew.

    Dried and spirit-preserved specimens of Potentilla vesca are held in Kew’s Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. 

    Specimens of seeds of Potentilla vesca are held in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA
    Open woodland and scrub, especially on lime-rich soils.
    Widespread and not considered to be threatened.

    Skin contact with ‘fruits’ and leaves can cause a raised, itchy rash in sensitised individuals; ingestion of ‘fruits’ can affect the skin, gastrointestinal system or respiratory system of sensitised individuals.



    Found In:

    Albania, Altay, Austria, Azores, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Buryatiya, Central European Rus, Corse, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Irkutsk, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Krasnoyarsk, Krym, Lebanon-Syria, Madeira, Netherlands, North Caucasus, North European Russi, Northwest European R, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sardegna, Sicilia, South European Russi, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tennessee, Transcaucasus, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Tuva, Ukraine, West Siberia, Yugoslavia

    Introduced Into:

    Baleares, Canary Is., Ecuador, Illinois, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Rwanda, Réunion, Tanzania, Trinidad-Tobago, Tunisia

    Common Names

    Woodland strawberry

    Fragaria vesca L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jan 1, 2007 Rico, L. [1733], Armenia K000297309
    Ross-Craig, S., United Kingdom 15631.000
    Cope, T.A. [RBG 312], Great Britain K000914190
    Richards, H.M. [14129], Tanzania 4968.000
    Spruce, R. [5465], Ecuador K000006092
    Spruce, R. [5465], Ecuador K000006093

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 494 (1753)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2016) Phytotaxa 250: 1-431
    • [2] Bailey, C. & al. (2015) Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee . University of Tennessee press
    • [3] Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014) Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide , ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale
    • [4] (2013) Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 5: 1-451. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève
    • [5] (2011) Norrlinia 24: 1-166
    • [10] (2004) Atlas Florae Europaeae. Distribution of vascular plants in Europe 13: 1-320
    • [11] (2004) Flora of Siberia 8: 1-197. Scientific Publishers, Inc., Enfield, Plymouth
    • [13] (2002) Boissiera 58: 1-401
    • [17] (1997) Flore des Mascareignes 81-89: 1. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris
    • [19] (1996) Flora of Ecuador 56: 1-169. Gothenburg University
    • [20] (1993) Sommerfeltia 17: 1-295
    • [21] Mouterde, P. (1986) Nouvelle flore du Liban se de la Syrie 2: 1-727. Dar El-Machreq Sarl, Beyrouth, Liban
    • [22] Troupin, G. (ed.) (1978) Flora du Rwanda 1: 1-413. Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale
    • [23] Davis, P.H. (ed.) (1972) Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands 4: 1-657. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh
    • [24] (1969) Flora Iranica 66: 1-217. Naturhistorisches Museums Wien
    • [25] Pavlov, N.V. (ed.) (1961) Flora Kazakhstana 4: 1-546. Alma-Ata, Izd-vo Akademii nauk Kazakhskoi SSR
    • [26] (1960) Flora of Tropical East Africa , Rosaceae: 1-61


    • [6] Kole, C. (ed) (2011). Wild Crop Relatives: Genomic and Breeding Resources, Temperate Fruits. Springer, Berlin & Heidelberg.
    • [7] Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
    • [8] Davidson, A. (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press Inc., New York.
    • [9] von Raab-Straube, E. (ed.) (2005-continuously updated) The Euro+Med PlantBase - the information resource for Euro-Mediterranean plant diversity . http://ww2.bgbm.org/EuroPlusMed/query.asp
    • [12] Hancock, J. F. (2004). Plant Evolution and the Origin of Crop Species. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxon.
    • [14] Mabberley, D. J. (2002). Potentilla and Fragaria (Rosaceae) reunited. Telopea 9: 793 –801.
    • [15] Bowling, B. L. (2000). The Berry Grower’s Companion. Timber Press Inc., Portland, Oregon.
    • [16] Vaughan, J. G. & Geissler, C. A. (1999). The New Oxford Book of Food Plants. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK
    • [18] Mabey, R. (1997). Flora Britannica. Chatto & Windus, London.
    • [27] Benth. & Hook, f., Brit. Fl., ed. 7: 140 (1924).
    • [28] Hegi, Illustr. Fl. Mitt.-Europa, 4: 899, fig. 1157 (1922).
    • [29] Hook. f., Fl. Brit. Ind. 2: 344 (1878).
    • [30] L., Sp. Pl.: 494 (1753).


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