Mock Strawberry (Potentilla indica) is a ground-hugging plant that roots from runners. Serrated leaves can be evergreen or semi-evergreen. The upper leaflet surfaces are medium to dark green and hairless. Rather than the white flowers of true, garden strawberries, the mock strawberry's flowers are yellow. Each five-petal bloom is solitary, consisting of five green sepals and many stamens with yellow anthers. Five leafy bracts form at the base of the flower, toothed and larger than its sepals. Less than an inch in size, flowers bloom from April to June and sporadically through September. When in bloom, this groundcover reaches a humble height of about two and a half inches. Each stem spans to more than one foot.
Red-burgundy fruit emerges in summer and fall as a mass of red seeds on a bumpy surface, expanding to small, rounded, bloated berries. While resembling miniature strawberries, fruits are very seedy and dry with little to no flavor. Similar in size to the flower from which they are borne, fruit measures less than one inch in length and width. Flowers are often confused for Potentilla species, such as the Shrubby Cinquefoil, and fruits resemble Fragaria species, which includes common garden strawberries. This trailing wildflower was moved to the Potentilla genus because it is most closely related to potentilla plants. So, Mock Strawberry, now identified as Potentilla indica, was changed from Duchesnea indica, originally Fragaria indica.
|Botanical Name||Potentilla indica, formerly Duchesnea indica, originally Fragaria indica|
|Common Names||Mock strawberry, false strawberry, Indian strawberry, snake berry, she mei, and Indian mock strawberry|
|Plant Type||Fruit-bearing, deciduous, evergreen or semi-evergreen groundcover/wildflower|
|Mature Size||2.5 inches tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to full shade|
|Soil Type||Humus rich|
|Soil pH||Mildly acidic to mildly alkaline|
|Bloom Time||April to June|
|Hardiness Zones||5-9, USDA|
|Native Area||Asia (Afghanistan to Russian Far East and Malesia)|
Mock Strawberries Care
Native to Asia, particularly Afghanistan to Russian Far East and Malesia, the Mock Strawberry has been introduced to Eastern to mid and coastal North America as an ornamental. Among other weeds that look similar to garden strawberry plants, Mock Strawberry is the most well-known. The plant often shows up in disturbed soil and lawns where it is tolerant of mowing. It can be considered a noxious weed or invasive. Naturally, it grows most prolifically in agricultural areas, forests, and wetlands.
Mock Strawberry is considered an invasive species in some areas. Check with your local extension office before planting any.
Tolerant of a range of conditions, this groundcover grows best in full sun to full shade.
While it is adaptable to different types of soil, it thrives best in humus rich soil in the shade. Maintain a soil pH of 6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic), 6.6 to 7.5 (neutral), to 7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline).
Water regularly, if needed, but do not overwater. Because this plant is drought-tolerant, it is ideal for xeriscaping (water-wise or water-efficient landscaping).
Temperature and Humidity
Mock Strawberry will grow in hot, dry areas of the United States.
Are Mock Strawberries Toxic?
Mock Strawberry fruit is not poisonous, but as mentioned above, it is not considered to be very tasty. While Potentilla indica is not poisonous, exercise caution when foraging because many other berries in the wild can be toxic to humans.
Mock Strawberries vs. Other Strawberries
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) and other garden strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa) are more juicy, sweet, and flavorful. Wild Strawberry and Mock Strawberry both have clusters of serrated leaves. The only difference is that Mock Strawberry leaves have little to no hair. Most other strawberry plants have hairy leaves. Mock Strawberry plants have yellow flowers while strawberry plants that produce the fruit we most regularly buy and consume have white flowers. Though the most obvious difference between these plants is the fruit itself. Both Wild and Mock varieties produce elongated orbs from white to red, but Mock Strawberry fruit is a little spikier. SF Gate notes, "Mock strawberry fruit points upward, while strawberry varieties tend to point downward."
Mock Strawberry fruit, flowers, and leaves are edible and medicinal. Fruit contains vitamin C, protein, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Berries may also help stretch other berries when making jam and jelly, and make a mildly flavored jelly or juice on their own. An infusion of the flowers can activate blood circulation. Fresh leaves can be crushed into a soft and moist mass to treat eczema and insect bites. Add raw berries in salads, cook leaves as a green for other dishes, and steep leaves for tea.
Where it is hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 9, the Mock Strawberry plant is a perennial that spreads by stolons and usually comes back the next year. If desired, seeds can also be found online.