April 24, 1921. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 56(30): 3-W.
Forest, Field and Stream
The Wild Strawberry.
By Sandy Griswold.
Lovers of wild flowers - and they are truly the most beautiful of them all - must not imagine, however, that they are compelled to depend upon them for all the delights they derive out of their research for the well-known and regularly listed favorites, for there are many of the lowlier sort that are fully as engrossing in their attractiveness, in their general architecture, as well as their fragrance, and which come under the plebian title of weeds, and are, therefore, little thought of and greatly less understood.
Take the wild strawberry, for instance, and while not classed with the countless other more pretensious beauties, is one of the prettiest of all the whole floral category, and regardless of medicinal properties, commensurate in real value with the most favored.
All the world loves the strawberry, and it is an olden axiom that the good Lord doubtless could have made a better berry, but doubtless the good Lord never did. We are now fairly in the height of the season, and are favored, as strange as that may seem, with one of the longest seasons of any section in the country, as we get the choice of the berries from every region where they are cultivated, in addition to a superior home-grown article yet to come. Just now we are getting the best of the year, so far as ripeness, redness and sweetness are concerned.
Of course the wild strawberry, so prolific along our hillsides and in our fields and meadows, is just now rounding into the blossoming period, and while the cream of all the family, are small and somewhat difficult to accumulate in sufficient quantities to bless our tables, the fact is, the place to eat wild strawberries is where you pick them.
The strawberry has been under cultivation for more than four centuries, and comes primitively from the wild seedling, almost countless varieties having been evolved from the parent stock, and every one of these tracing their descent from the tiny, fragrant wild berries that grow the world over, in all latitudes, on hillside and in valley, yet none of them surpass the original in either fragrance or taste.
Floral scientists have bestowed the euphonious title of Fragaria upon the genus, and it belongs to the natural order Rosaceae, of the matchless rose order. There are some six or seven of the wild varieties. There is the wood variety, found in the woods and on the hillsides, and the first to be brought under cultivation. The most prolific of our wild berries is the Virginia - Fragaria Virginiana. And we take pride in mentioning that all of the best have been developed from this tiny oblong berry, which is the brightest red, the most wonderfully sweet, the juiciest and, in flavor, the most pungent, and more fragrant than any relative nurtured in garden or patch in any section of the world.
And make no mistake, this precious little Virginia is one of the most unique and most exquisite of all our thousands of wild floral beauties. Its fuzzy stems rear themselves straight up from under our meadow and wild pasture grasses from a running rootstalk. The flowers, several on each stem, have fine rounded, white petals, and narrow, greenish lanceolate sepals, and golden anthers. It is a treat to find a fruitful stem, that is one with its full quantum of flowers, and it never fails to wake a veritable fusillade of excited and joyous ohs and ahs from the lucky searcher. The berries suffer little from raids by the birds, although there is one little gray striped warbler, which I cannot name, that is exceedingly fond of them, but their inroads are almost unnoticeable, these warblers being so scarce in our fields and along our wooded hillsides, that the inroads upon the berries is inconsequential.