American native fragaria vesca (ssp. americana) vs European fragaria vesca (ssp. vesca)

Hi all,

Last year I dug up what I thought was a couple fragaria virginiana plants from the side of the road (I now know that’s a no-no, but the site was super disturbed already :/) to encourage as ground cover in my native garden. I just found out that what I thought was f. virginiana is f. vesca, and now I’m wondering if there’s a way to identify whether it’s the native subspecies. Whenever something is flourishing so beautifully on a roadside I somewhat pessimistically tend to assume it’s non-native, but who knows! Separately, does anyone have a sense of whether the subspecies are similar enough that it will provide the same wildlife benefits? It has done incredibly well and looks beautiful, so I’m loathe to replace it, but will if it’s not serving an ecological function. Interestingly, I also have a few fragaria virginiana in the garden that I bought from a native plant nursery, and they have spread to about 10% of how much f. vesca have spread. I don’t know if this is because my site conditions are on the shady side of part-shade and moist, or whether it’s just a more vigorous species.

Thank you!

The key difference between Fragaria vesca and Fragaria virginica seems to be the terminal teeth of the leaves. I assume the subspecies of F. virginica will still follow the same pattern. I can vaguely tell the difference from photo IDs but I don’t have a key for them.

On F. virginica, the apical tooth is shorter than the adjacent teeth.

On F. vesca, the apical tooth is the same/longer than the adjacent teeth.

I hope that helps, if I’m right! Key used, from this site:

Also, you can find AMAZING plants on the side of the road! Give them the benefit of the doubt :) This is just my opinion, but you can dig up one plant IF the population there seems to be sustained. Though, if you can revisit-- it’s better to collect seeds both for the population’s sake and genetic diversity.

My roadside patch is always mowed before anything can ever seed. So, I find it better to let them overwinter in my yard. For their sake, obviously.


Flora of North America has a key to the subspecies (here), along with range maps for each subspecies. The key is based largely on fruit (technically “torus”) shape. Depending on where in North America you are located, the range maps might be more useful than the key - the introduced F. vesca vesca is limited to the northeast US and eastern Canada.

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