If you are out in the garden, you might discover a plant that resembles the strawberry plant. However, it won’t grow strawberries, and it might even be invasive. It is important to understand what the strawberry plant looks like and how it grows so that you can identify these imposters.
What Do Strawberry Plants Look Like?
Strawberry plants are perennials, and they grow in zones 3 through 11. They have stems with three leaflets that are located at the bottom of the plant, which are called basal leaves. The edges of the leaves are serrated, and they have flowers that are normally white.
The flowers each have an ivory-colored center and between five and eight petals. When they bear fruit, you will recognize them as strawberries. They are shaped like a heart with tiny surface seeds. The plants spread out with runners, which are offshoots.
You can plant strawberries in the spring as soon as the last frost has passed. They will bloom the following spring, and then they will produce fruit late spring through early summer. In the first year, most people remove the flowers so that the plant focuses its energy on growth rather than flowering. That way, it will be ready to produce the fruit the following year.
Weeds That Look Like Strawberries
The weeds that look like strawberries can either be from the same family of plants, or they may be completely unrelated. Take a look at each of the following:
Cinquefoils are also known as barren strawberries, and they look very similar to strawberries. Their flowers are yellow, and they don’t bear strawberries. One type of cinquefoil, the Strawberry weed, is the Norwegian cinquefoil. It grows throughout the United States and Canada. It has trifoliate leaves that are round-toothed and resemble the strawberry leaves. They grow between one and three feet high, and they bloom with yellow flowers.
Another type of cinquefoil is the common cinquefoil, and it only grows in the eastern United States. One difference is that it has leaves in five parts instead of three. However, the shape of this plant is similar to the strawberry plant on first glance.
The best way to distinguish cinquefoils is when they bloom. The yellow flowers are what let you know that they are not strawberries. If they do produce fruits, they are inedible and round instead of heart-shaped.
Wild strawberries are a parent plant to the garden strawberry, and they do produce edible fruits, but they aren’t very sweet or tasty. Wild strawberries bloom with white flowers that have a yellow center, and they have the same three-part leaves that are round-toothed. They grow up to six inches tall, and they love dry, partly shaded conditions. You might find them in fields or along the edge of a wooded area.
Mock strawberries are another imitation plant, and they are similar in appearance to garden strawberries and wild strawberries. However, their flowers are white. They also spread with runners, and they have the three-part leaves that are round-toothed. They bear fruit that is red and seeded, and they are safe to eat, but they don’t have much flavor and can be bitter. You will often find them in zones 5 to 9 in wild areas.
Wood strawberries are also called the California strawberry, and they are an invasive species, but people sometimes use them as a ground cover. They are related to the garden strawberry, and they have the same trifoliate leaves that are toothed. They have white flowers with a yellow center, and they grow best in zones 5 to 9. Those that grow in the wild aren’t very tasty, and they will grow out of control with their runners if you don’t prune them.
How to Recognize Weeds That Look Like Strawberries
It can be difficult to see the difference between these weeds and actual strawberries. Cinquefoils are very similar, but when they grow fruit, it will be round.
If you see wild strawberries, you will notice that they have smaller berries than the garden variety. Wild strawberries will also grow yellow flowers rather than white or pink. There are times when the only way to know the difference is by waiting until they grow their fruit.
Should You Get Rid of Weeds That Look Like Strawberries?
Some people use these plants as a ground cover, but many people prefer other types of plants. The problem is that these weeds can be very invasive and take over garden beds.
They have runners that take root very quickly and form new plants, and they will spread across your entire lawn. They will suffocate fragile plants and become the dominant plant in your garden. If you don’t get rid of them, you will need to prune them often to prevent them from spreading.
How to Get Rid of These Weeds
If you want to get rid of these weeds, you will need to do one of two things. You can cover them with heavy plastic and let the sun bake them through the plastic for a week. Then, rake them and remove all parts down to the roots. You can also pull them by hand and burn the debris or bag it to go out in the garbage. You won’t be able to compost them because they are likely to take root and start growing in your compost pile.