Beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis, Rosaceae) can be found among beaches, coastal dunes and grasslands along the Pacific Ocean from Alaska through South America. I came across the individual above at Redwood National Park in California this April.
As with other strawberries it features trifoliate (three part) leaves with toothed margins as well as small, white, five-petaled flowers. Fertilized flowers develop into red aggregate accessory fruit, and despite the common name these aren’t true botanical berries.
Two other native strawberries look very similar. These are the Virginia strawberry (F. virginiana) and the woodland strawberry (F. vesca). Both have slightly more elongate leaflets with sharper teeth. Beach strawberry leaflets are more round in shape with teeth that are relatively blunt, and the tooth at the apex is characteristically shorter than those on either side. When differentiating these species it’s also helpful to consider their habitats. Virginia strawberry grows in upland forests and meadows, woodland strawberry is associated with forests at lower elevations, and beach strawberry is found at the lowest elevations along the Pacific Ocean.
The common garden strawberry (F. x ananassa) was the result of cross-breeding the beach strawberry with the Virginia strawberry in the eighteenth century. While California hosts both species in nature, this state also produces about 75% of all commercial garden strawberry fruit in the United States.