Agricultural Research Service scientist Kim Hummer found a new species of wild strawberries during plant expeditions in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Known as fragaria cascadensis, these genetically diverse wild strawberries may provide a new class of berries available for purchase at our grocers.
This species differs from others in its region because it has a ten-chromosome body, not unlike a variety of wild strawberriesfound in Russia called fragaria iturupensis. Visually, the immiediate differences that are identifiable on these berries are the hair found on their comma-shaped leaves and the small, brown fruits called achenes, which are often mistaken for seeds. The other immediate difference is that the berries ripen in August, whereas eight chromosome strawberries ripen in June.
Hummer’s strawberry was classified as a new species last year in the Journal of Botanical Research Institute of Texas. Though it is currently unlikely, since the berry is still roughly the size of a bottle-cap, the crossing of varied genetic strawberries may become a possibility as more of these hybrid species come into play, both improving disease resistance and improving flavor.