Closing out 2021 I will post three “beach” plants photographed in May along the California Coast. This beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) was growing on Dry Lagoon Beach in Humboldt Lagoon State Park (Humboldt County CA).
Low, creeping plants arising from short, thick rootstalks connected by hairy “runners”, beach strawberries grow from Alaska south through the northern two-thirds of California. Their habitat is coastal dunes and bluffs, never far from the sea.
The basal beach strawberry leaves are compound with three broad, leathery leaflets. The leaflets are heavily veined and coarsely toothed with the terminal tooth shorter than its neighbors. The leaflets are shiny, dark green on the upper side and hairy, greyish on the underside.
Beach strawberry flowers have five (to seven sometimes) white, broadly ovate petals, each with a short stalk at the base. The five greenish sepals are pointed with little bracts between. Many yellow stamens give the flower a yellow center.
As with domestic strawberries, this perennial native has a berry (strawberry) fruit bearing many small seeds (achenes). The fruits are high in Vitamin C and can be made into jams and other preserves. I feel the berries are best eaten fresh as they are picked.
Beach strawberry leaves make a sweet tea. Medicinally the leaves are used as a poultice on burns and in anti-diarrhea medicines.
Beach strawberries belong to the Rose Family (Rosaceae). They are also commonly called coastal strawberries. The genus name, Fragaria, comes from the Latin word for strawberry, fraga. The plant was first described from specimens collected from Chiloe, an island off the coast of Chile, thus the species designation.