As plants and animals emerge from winter, one of the earliest local wildflowers to bloom is wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana). In early spring, toothy, three-lobed leaves sprout from stems 10-15 centimetres tall. Dainty, white, five-petaled flowers with bright yellow centres follow soon after.
Attracting some of the earliest pollinators, the flower petals feature nectar guides: lines and patterns that direct insects to a flower’s nectar. The nectar guides of wild strawberry are invisible to humans but visible to bees, who can see ultraviolet light. Watch for visiting sweat bees, cuckoo bees, mason bees and others, as well as syrphid flies, small butterflies, skippers and moths.
Tiny fruit appear in late May or early June. Birds, such as robins and eastern towhees, and small mammals may visit for a snack, but you can also pick the fruit to eat fresh or to make a tasty treat such as wild strawberry jam.
Typically found in fields and forest edges growing in full sun or part shade, wild strawberry can withstand salt, drought and compaction, making it great for most urban yards. It’s excellent for borders or edging, filler for rock gardens or as ground cover, and also looks great spilling over the edge of a container or planter.
Plants will spread by sending out runners that sprawl across the soil. Allow them to roam, or clip back before runners grow roots. Leaves stay green all growing season, providing great ground cover on their own or combined with other low-growing native plants like prairie smoke and nodding onion.
To discover more pollinator friendly plants, download our pollinator plant list.