No. 38. Fragaria vesca.
English Name—COMMON STRAWBERRY.
French Name—Fraisier Sauvage.
German Name—Gemeine Erdbeere.
Officinal Name—Fragaria baccae.
Vulgar Names—American Strawberry, Wild Strawberry.
Synonyms—F. virginiana and F. canadensis, Wildenow, Persoon, Pursh, &c.
Authorities—Lin. Clayton, Colden, Cutler, Schoepf, Michaux, Pursh, Torrey, Eaton, many botanical works and some Materia Med. &c.
Genus FRAGARiA—Calix ten cleft, subequal, bearing the corolla and stamina. Petals, five on the base of the calix. Many stamina, unequal, filaments filiform, anthers round. Large central gynophore, pulpy, deciduous, bearing many Pistils immersed in it, and forming together a pulpy many seeded berry.—Leaves trifoliate, serrate, stipulate.
Species F. VESCA—Stoloniferous and hairy; radical leaves as long as the stems, stem leaves few, subsessile: folioles subsessile, oboval, lateral ones oblique.
Description—Root perennial, creeping, knotty, bunches of fibres at the knots. Stems of two kinds, some procumbent, stoloniferous, creeping, rooting, slender, with few small leaves, and commonly sterile; true stems upright or reclined, short, with few leaves; both stems and leaves are more or less hairy. Leaves either radical or caulinal, the former on long petiols, the others nearly similar when at the base of the stem; but much smaller and with short petioles when higher up: stipules lanceolate or oblong, acute: three folioles sessile or nearly so, the middle one subpetiolate, nearly equal, but the lateral ones commonly oblique, and with fewer teeth inside; shape oboval or oval or nearly round, margin broadly serrate, surface with regular veins, lower surface pale and more hairy.
Flowers one or many on each stem, with pedicels erect or drooping. Calix spreading or reflexed, divided into ten acute segments, the alternate somewhat shorter. Five white petals, oboval or obcordate inserted on the calix. Many small stamina inserted there also, with short filiform filaments and small round anthers. Pistils many, very small, oval, with a small sessile stigma, forming a convex head, being inserted on a fleshy gynophore, which grows, becomes pulpy and colored, involving the pistils or the small seeds succeeding them, and forming together the fruit or Strawberry, which is either round or oval, and scrobiculate or punctate by little pitts, each corresponding to a seed inside: these fruits are either red or white.
History—Few plants are better known at first sight, and yet more difficult to describe, owing to the variable characters. Linnaeus and many botanists thought that all the Strawberries of the five parts of the world, formed only one species, the actual one. Others have thought otherwise and attempted to distinguish several species and varieties, among those found in America, Africa, Asia and Polynesia; but the difficulty has been to ascertain (as among the Roses) which are the specific or constant forms and which are variable deviations.
If every deviation of form, color, direction, pubescence and composition, was to be considered specific, we should have 100 kinds of Strawberries, and indeed some gardeners have described thirty or forty kinds, while more accurate botanists only acknowledge ten to fifteen species as yet. Meantime these species have all the same habit and flowers, differing only by some inconspicuous details.
Our wild Strawberry was long thought the F. vesca, until Wildenow and Pursh made two new species of it. In attending to the many varieties which I have seen in my travels, I thought that three or four more species could be made from them; but noticing that they are all connected by intermediate links, I came to the conclusion that they were only varieties of the F. vesca, and that the whole genus requires a revision. I could mention about twenty varieties of our wild Strawberries and seventeen from our gardens; but shall confine myself to seven of the most remarkable native kinds.
1. Var. Uniflora, stems simple, one flowered, one leaved, as long as the radical leaves, folioles sessile, suboval, incise-serrate; calix spreading or erect, petals rounded, fruits rounded or depressed—Common in glades. This is figured here.
2. Var. Clandestina. Nearly stemless, stems short leafless, two to five flowered, concealed by large radical leaves, folioles oboval, sessile; calix spreading or reflexed, fruit round or oval.—Rare in New York, Ohio, &c.
3. Var. Pumila. Stems short, one to two flowered, leaves shorter, very small oval and oboval, with adpressed silvery hairs, calix spreading and small.— In the mountains of Virginia &c. one or two inches high.
4. Var. Glabra. Stems two to three flowered, leaves ample, longer, nearly smooth, folioles oboval, subsessile, fruit oval. On the banks of the Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, &c.
5. Var. Aprica. Stems one to five flowered, leaves shorter, hairy, glaucous beneath, folioles subsessile oval and oboval, calix spreading, fruit suboval.—Very common in the western glades, and open fields from New Jersey to Virginia.
6. Var. Sylvatica, Stems 1-5 flowered as long as the leaves, folioles broad oval, subsessile, smooth above, calix spreading, fruit round or oval—This is probably the F. virginiana of many; common in woods and mountains.
7. Var. Pendula. Stems three to five flowered, leaves ample, folioles broad oval, smooth above, subsessile, calix spreading; fruits pendulous, globular, pubescent.—In the mountains of New England, Pennsylvania, &c. This must be the Fr. Canadensis of Pursh, &c.
All these varieties afford excellent fruits, rather small, but highly flavored, they are red, seldom white, and ripe from May to June, the blossoms appear in April and May. Strawberries are deservedly esteemed as pleasant and healthy fruits, and have long been tenants of gardens: the wild ones are always as good as those cultivated.
Fragaria belongs to the natural family of SENTICOSES next to Rubus and Comarum, and to Icosandria polygynia of Linnaeus.
Locality—Strawberries are scattered all over the globe, in cold climates, or on the high mountains of warm countries. They are found on the Himala mountains of the centre of Asia, and from Natolia to Siberia and Japan in that Continent; they grow all over Europe, on Mount Atlas of Africa, on the mountains of the Polynesia Islands, and in America all over the Andes from Oregon to Chili, also from Alaska to Canada. In the United States, they are found every where in woods, glades, &c.
Qualities—The whole plant has a subastringent taste, the flowers have a honey smell, the fruits have a peculiar fragrant smell, and ambrosial acid flavor. The plant contains tannin: and Strawberries contain the malic and tartaric acid, some sugar and much water, besides an essential oil giving the Aroma.
Properties—Although Strawberries have been commonly considered as an article of food, they highly deserve a place among medicaments, which are not the worse I should think for being palatable. Linnaeus introduced them in his Materia Medica, as well as Schoepf, &c. They are diluent, refrigerant, subastringent, analeptic, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral, eccoprotic, &c. They are useful in fevers, Gravel, Gout, Scurvy, and Phthisis. They are cooling, promote perspiration, give relief in diseases of the bladder and kidneys, upon which they act powerfully, since they impart a violet smell and high color to urine. Hoffman and Linnaeus have long ago extolled them in gout and phthisis; persons labouring under these chronic complaints ought to eat them frequently when in Season, and use at other times their Syrup. An excessive dose of either is however liable to produce emesis or a painful stricture in the bladder, with red urine, as I have experienced myself. But used moderately they are certainly a valuable medical diet in many cases. They possess also the property of curing chilblains, their water is used in France for that purpose as a wash. A fine wine can be made with them and some sugar. The Plant and leaves have nearly the same properties, although they are less cooling and more astringent. Both have been employed like Cinquefoil and Agrimony for sore throat, swelled gums, bowel complaints, jaundice and fevers in infusion and decoction. A Vinegar Infusion, Distilled Water, Syrup, Conserve, &c. of Strawberries are kept in shops in Europe.
Substitutes—Raspberries best substitute, Blackberries, Mulberries, Red Currants, Cranberries and other acid berries, but none is so good, lacking either the diuretic or diaphoretic property.
Remarks—The Arbutus Unedo or Strawberry tree of Europe, is a fine evergreen and ornamental shrub, producing large berries similar to Strawberries, but belonging to different orders of plants, the BICORNES and Decandria Monogynia like the Arbutus Uva ursi. These berries are edible but less acid than Strawberries, and they are emetic even at a moderate dose, as I have myself experienced. This fine shrub does not grow in the United States, except in gardens.
The Evonymus Americanus is also called Strawberry shrub with us; but erroneously, since the berries hardly resemble Strawberries, being depressed, with four or five warty lobes, not eatable, and without any of their properties. The leaves of this shrub, however, as well as of Evonymus atropurpureus (the Wahoon or Arrow wood of the West and South) make a fine pectoral tea, much used for colds, coughs, catarrh, influenza, &c. The leaves of the Crategus crus-galli, or White-thorn are also used for the same purpose.