Cascade Strawberry Plants (Fragaria cascadensis)

cascade strawberry plants fragaria cascadensisFragaria cascadensis is a newly-discovered species of strawberry plants that have just been discovered high on the peaks of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.  The new species was discovered near Hoodoo Mountain by Agricultural Research Service scientist Kim Hummer with the National Clonal Germplasm Repository at Corvallis, Oregon.

Fragaria cascadensis Strawberry Plants: Summary

Unlike the modern Garden Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) which, if propagated by seed, does not produce second generation plants whose traits are true to the parents, Fragaria cascadensis is a new strawberry plant species whose offspring will remain true to the parent plants’ characteristics.  This species has been dubbed the “Cascade Strawberry.”

Like most wild strawberries, the fruit of F. cascadensis is quite small when compared to the highly developed commercial cultivars available today.  Its native habitat, as of now, is known only to be in the western Cascade Mountains from the Columbia River in the north, to the vicinity of Crater Lake in the south, in sandy-clay loams of volcanic origin in forest clearings and open meadows.  The plants are known to grow at altitudes from between 3,000 and 5,000 feet.

Characteristics of Fragaria cascadensis

F. cascadensis plants begin growing at the end of May or beginning of June when the snow has melted.  By early July the plants are flowering, and they produce runners shortly thereafter.  The fruit ripens over the course of about two weeks during the month of August, with the plants at lower elevation ripening about 1-2 weeks prior to those at higher elevation.  Like other true strawberries, the flowers are white.  Unlike other varieties in the area, however, small hairs extend from the surface of the leaves, and the small seeds that dot the surface of the berries are comma-shaped instead of teardrop-shaped.  Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the strawberries have 10 sets of chromosomes instead of the typical 8 found in most commercial varieties.

This chromosome composition of Cascade strawberry plants provides unique possibilities for the future of strawberries.  With the same number of chromosomes as the cultivated F. vescana or the wild species F. iturpensis that grows on a Russian island northwest of Hokkaido, Japan, crossbreeding could yield new varieties with unique and desirable flavors and disease profiles.  At present, however, the berries are reported to have a mediocre-at-best sugar-acid flavor, white interior, and are soft.

Growing F. cascadensis Strawberry Plants (Cascade Strawberries)

Fragaria cascadensis plants are not available commercially anywhere at present due to their recent discovery.  However, they do produce runners and can be propagated easily by its strawberry seeds or by runner division as a true species.  To propagate by seed, the seeds should be sowed in early spring in a greenhouse or other suitable environment after they have been collected.  Germination rates vary, but it is common for the seeds to take four or more weeks to germinate.  New seedlings are exceedingly small and grow quite slowly.  However, as their size increases, so does their rate of growth.  When they are large enough to handle, transplant individual plants into pots or plant them outside.

Propagation of strawberry plants by runners should be done in July or August.  This allows the runner plants to establish themselves prior to winter.  If needed, the established plants can be carefully transplanted the following spring, but it is best to prevent the plants from fruiting during their first full growing season to encourage plant vigor and increase the size of subsequent harvests.  This is accomplished by pinching off any of the strawberry flowers that are produced.

Cascade Strawberry Plants: Conclusion

There are currently no commercial distributors of F. cascadensis.  To get plants, one would likely have to plan an expedition to find them in the wild or locate a specialty dealer once they have been collected and grown commercially.  If you are looking for a plant-finding adventure, your best chance of finding the plants is to visit the western, wetter side of the Cascade Mountains, off the Pacific Crest Trail.

For a directory and more information on strawberry cultivars, visit this directory: Strawberry Varieties

For more scientific information on this new strawberry variety, see the GRIN entry and the ARS data.

 

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