The Shape of a Strawberry
Before you can identify weeds, you must know what the real thing looks like. Strawberries are perennial plants that grow in USDA Zone 3 to 11. They have basal leaves (leaves at the bottom only) composed of three leaflets to one stem. The edges are serrated. Flowers are usually white, with five to eight petals and an ivory to cream center. The fruits are easily recognizable – red and heart-shaped, with small surface seeds. The plants spread by offshoots called runners.
The Most Common Weeds
Weeds that can look like strawberries may be members of the same family or completely unrelated. Here are the once you’re most likely to see in your garden:
- Cinquefoils, also known as the barren strawberry; inedible fruits.
- Wild Strawberries; edible fruits but not very sweet or palatable.
- Mock Strawberries; bland to bitter fruits.
- Wood Strawberries; invasive but sometimes used as a groundcover.
Cinquefoils can be the hardest to recognize as they are very similar in appearance. However, their fruits are often rounded rather than heart-shaped. Wild strawberries have much smaller fruits than garden strawberries. True strawberries have white or pink flowers, while wild strawberry plants produce yellow flowers. Sometimes the only way to make an identification is to let them develop fruit.
Why to Eliminate These Weeds
While some people use these plants as groundcovers, most people prefer to avoid them in favor of other choices. These weeds are typically invasive – especially the mock and wood strawberries. They can easily take over a flower or garden bed by throwing out runners that root and quickly form new plants. They will also grow readily in lawns. Fragile plants can’t withstand them, although they may be all right in a shrubbery bed.
How to Eliminate Weeds
There are really only two ways to get rid of these weeds once they show up. The first is to sterilize the soil by covering it with heavy clear plastic. Pin or weight down and let the sunlight bake the plants for a week or more. Rake well, removing all debris to prevent regrowth. The second is to pull them up by hand, one plant at a time. Burn the debris. If you compost it, you may have the weeds in the compost pile.