During a planting collecting expedition in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, scientist Kim Hummer discovered the plant, now named Fragaria cascadensis or Cascade strawberry.
"The new strawberry species begins growing after snowmelt in late May or early June and flowers in early July. Runner production begins after flowering, and fruit ripens during August for about 2 weeks," Hummer said on the ARS website.
"The fruits of plants at about 5,000 feet elevation ripen 1 to 2 weeks later than those at 3,280 feet."
The perennial plant features white flowers and green leaves. It stands out from other strawberry species from the region in that it has hairs on the upper side of its leaves, a different middle leaflet and small fruit on the strawberries called achenes, according to ARS.
It also has 10 sets of chromosomes rather than the eight seen in commercial strawberries.
“Fragaria cascadensis presents the possibility for developing and breeding a new class of cultivated strawberries. This wild Oregon strawberry, if crossed with the commercial strawberry, would likely result in hybrid offspring with lower fertility,” Hummer said.
“However, crossing this new species with other strawberries having the same number of chromosomes, such as the cultivated F. vescana or the wild Russian species F. iturupensis, should produce fertile offspring, which may reveal new flavors or genetic disease resistance."
The strawberry is now included in the Corvallis repository genebank that collects genetic material on a variety of temperate fruits, including berries and nuts.
The fruit finding was reported in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.
Photo: Fragaria cascadensis from Waldo Lake, Oregon