Whether you’re a beginner gardener or a garden guru, you are probably aware of the feeling of frustration when you notice a weed that looks like a strawberry plant. It’s easy to get swindled by these strawberry imposters, especially if you are unfamiliar with their characteristics.
Don’t throw in the towel just yet! This article will give you a low down on how to identify the weeds that look like strawberries, as well as some organic methods on how to get rid of them.
I’ll also explain why keeping your garden beds weed-free is essential and how these pesky plants can harm your strawberry plants.
First and foremost, strawberries are recognizable by their heart-shaped leaves. The leaves consist of three smaller leaflets, highly serrated (toothed or jagged edges) and glossy. Strawberry plants grow low to the ground, typically reaching around 6-12 inches (15-50cm) tall. They spread out like a mat, and one plant can spread up to 14 inches (35cm) wide.
The strawberry plants have a thick central stem, often referred to as a crown which is where the leaves emerge. During the spring and summer months, the flowers emerge and can range in a variety of hues of pink and white.
The white or pinkish strawberry flowers have five petals and a yellow receptacle. The receptacle is the nobby part in the middle where the juicy red fruit is formed. The fruit itself is the most distinctive characteristic and is recognized by its pink or red heart-shaped berries that are covered in seeds.
You can also use your nose to identify strawberries; they give off a sweet fruity aroma that is hard to miss. If you catch a whiff of a sweet fruity smell while you’re out and about, you are likely near some wild strawberries!
Particularly in the early stages of growth, different types of weeds can look similar to strawberry plants.
Some of the most common ones are:
Indian Mock Strawberry
Indian Mock strawberry is scientifically known as (Duchesnea indica or Potentilla indica) and is a weed native to Asia. It has become widespread in many parts of the world, including North America.
Often found growing in lawns, gardens, and other open areas, the Indian mock strawberry looks just like the true strawberry. The growth habit of the Indian mock strawberry is more upright than the real strawberry, and the fruit typically measures 0.4 inches (1cm) in diameter.
While the flowers and the foliage appear the same as the true strawberry, the fruit is the giveaway. The fruit of the mock strawberry is smaller, less juicy, and has little flavor making it unsuitable for eating.
This low-growing herbaceous plant is a perennial that belongs to the rose family. It is still used for its ornamental features and functions as a low-maintenance ground cover or cover crop. Personally, I prefer the real-deal strawberry in any case!
The ecological niche is another noticeable difference between the Indian mock strawberry and actual strawberries. Indian Mock strawberries are often found in disturbed habitats like roadside ditches, waste areas, and forest edges, which doesn’t seem like the kind of place you would want to harvest tasty fruit!
Sometimes referred to as alpine strawberries or woodland strawberries, these little guys are a smaller, more delicate version of the common garden strawberry. They are often found growing at high elevations in woodland areas.
Scientifically known as Fragaria virginiana, they are sometimes mistaken for a weed because of their growth habit. The Wild strawberry is a perennial plant that grows closer to the ground. They reach a height of 6-8 inches (15-20cm) and spread using their runners, which root and give rise to new plants.
While wild strawberries have the same leaf structure and inflorescence as the common garden strawberry, the fruit is much smaller and tarter. What they lack in size makes up in intensive flavor. These small fruits have become a popular choice for gourmet dishes and desserts.
Because of the intense flavor profile, they carry a higher concentration of aromatic compounds, making them more appealing to many pollinators and animals that can spread their seeds.
The delicate Wild strawberries are well worth seeking out as a ground cover crop, especially if you are into gourmet flavors in the kitchen.
Cinquefoils are lawn weeds that look like Strawberry plants. While it resembles a strawberry at first glance, the two have some key differences. The cinquefoil (Potentilla spp) leaves are divided into two leaflets, whereas the true strawberry leaves are divided into three. The name cinquefoil derives from this, as cinque means five in French.
One main difference to tell the cinquefoil and garden strawberry apart is the flowers. The cinquefoil plants consist of small yellow flowers with a small notch at the top, whereas garden strawberries produce large white or pink flowers.
Suppose the cinquefoil is not in flower when you see them; how else can you tell it is a weed? By the foliage. Not only do the leaves come with different leaflets, but they are also more elongated and feather formed than the garden strawberry.
Don’t let the cinquefoil fool you though they lack in their fruiting ability. They produce small inedible berries that are hardly palatable and can actually be quite bitter.
Cinquefoil plants are often used as ornamental plants in the garden as their bright yellow flowers and attractive foliage lure in pollinators. They have been known to be used as a herbal medicine to treat various ailments, including diarrhea and sore throats.
When you are unsure whether a plant is a weed or a strawberry plant, try comparing its foliage, flowers, and fruit to those of the common strawberry. If in doubt, consult a plant identification guide or field expert for advice.
Whether to keep these plants in your garden solely comes down to how attractive you find their leaves or flowers. They can provide other functions to your garden, such as attracting birds and bees. Because of their low-growing growth habit, they make a great cover crop that can protect the soil’s surface and reduce soil erosion. If planted alongside your other strawberry plants, they will compete with water and nutrients in the soil and slow down the growth of your true strawberries.
As with all weeds or unwanted plants in the garden, they can host a whole range of pests and diseases that will affect your other plants. If any of the above strawberries become a pest and overtake other plants in your beds, I would pull them out.
Suppose you have encountered some of these unintentional weeds that look like strawberries. You want to know the best way to remove them, right?
My recommendation is to follow organic methods to eliminate weeds that look like strawberries, and here’s how:
- Hand pulling: Good old-fashioned hand removal does the job every time! For some, this may seem like a daunting task, but for me, there is a therapeutic feeling involved with weed pulling!
Be sure to remove the entire root system of the strawberry-looking plant to prevent it from regrowing. This method is excellent for small gardens or areas with few weeds. If you have a large paddock full of weeds that look like strawberry plants, then this method would end up highly labor intensive.
- Mulching: Mulching is a great way to suppress weed growth. Cover a layer of organic mulch, such as straw leaves or grass clippings, around the base of your plants, and it will prevent the weeds from photosynthesizing and growing.
- Corn Gluten Meal: Corn Gluten meal is a natural weed suppressant and can be used as an organic weed killer. One major factor with corn gluten meal is that it will only prevent weed seeds from germinating, so you only have a limited time gap to use it before the seeds sprout. Applying too much cornmeal around your plants can harm them, so it’s best to use it sparingly.
- Vinegar: White vinegar or apple cider vinegar has been used as an effective weed killer for many years and can be sprayed directly on the weed. This method is excellent if your weeds are already invading your garden.
- Boiling Water: Another cost-effective organic solution to weed removal is boiling water. Pour boiling water directly onto the weed, which will kill it by scalding the leaves and roots. Again, this method is ok if you have a small area and the weeds are in a patch with no other plants. You don’t want to risk scalding nearby plants or even have to boil the kettle to soak a whole paddock!
Prevention is always favored over cure, so remember to cultivate your soil regularly and hand weed in the early stages of growth.
We’ve covered the ins and outs of weeds that look like strawberry plants, and now you know what to look for when rambling through forests and roadsides. Don’t let the imposters take you for a ride too – prevent their spread in your garden beds before they take over your other plants.
If you are looking for a delicate strawberry that packs a punch of flavor, you may want to consider growing wild strawberries- these are the safe ones and would make a yummy cheesecake!
FAQ About Weeds that Look Like Strawberry Plants
Is mock strawberry poisonous?
Mock strawberries are not poisonous, but they can give you a belly ache if you eat too many of them. They are tasteless, so they shouldn’t be the first choice to add to a dish.
Are mock strawberry flowers edible?
The Mock Strawberry flower, leaves, and fruit are edible and often used to bulk up other strawberry recipes such as jams and jellies.
What strawberry plants have pink flowers?
Strawberry varieties that bloom pink flowers are Tarpan, Tristan, Gasan, and Frisan. These cultivars all showcase bright pink blossoms.
Are there weeds that look like strawberry plants?
Weeds that look like strawberry plants include Cinquefoil, Mock Strawberry, and Wild Strawberry.