Potentilla indica, also known as Duchesnea indica, and “mock strawberry,” or “Indian strawberry,” is an edible plant found on woodland floors across the United States. Originally it is native to Asia but was brought over as an ornamental. Many people who see it and don’t know this assume it is a true wild strawberry — and at least one survival guide I’ve heard of mistakenly lists it as poisonous, which it is also not.
Like Fragaria virginiana, the true wild strawberry native to North America, P. indica has three-part leaves and red berries. However, with the P. indica, the flower is yellow with five petals instead of white. And though it is subtle, when you compare the two photos here you can see also that the leaves are different; the true wild strawberry leaves have straighter veins and more sharply serrated edges when compared to the mock strawberry leaves above. Here is the true wild strawberry below:
The flavor of mock strawberry is very bland, tasteless even, which seems surprising given its bright color and resemblance to the popular fruit. Interestingly, the herb is used in Chinese medicine as an anticoagulant, detoxifier, and antiseptic, as well as a febrifuge (herb taken to reduce fever), and studies published in the west have looked at its medicinal properties as an effective anti-inflammatory and as an immuno-stimulantuseful against cancer. The latter study:
“A promising and recently identified alternative to classical antibiotic treatment is the use of immunomodulators, which enhance immune reactions via the stimulation of non-specific systems, such as granulocytes, macrophages, complement, certain T-lymphocytes and various effector substances (1,2). Several studies have focused on identifying compounds that are able to modulate the biological response of immune cells thereby enhancing the immunity of the host against various diseases (3,4). The increasing interest in folk medicine is due numerous well known plant remedies that are able to exert their anti-infective influence by directly affecting the pathogen, in addition to affecting immune cells by improving their activity. These effects were partially contributed to by the stimulation of the natural and adaptive defense mechanisms of the host organism…
Potentilla indica (formally known as Duchesnea indica) is a member of the Rosaceae family, which is native to eastern and southern Asia and is commonly termed a mock strawberry. It exhibits a moderate cytotoxic effect against various cancerous cell lines… The ability of these plant extracts to modulate innate immune functions suggests promising further therapeutic development on wound healing and inhibition of tumor growth through modulation of lymphocytes.”
If you’d like to come taste some of these pretend strawberries, as well as the many other tasty edible berries now populating the wilderness (and urban wilderness) of the Portland, Oregon, area, consider joining me for a private hike! These are fun for kids and grownups; I’ve recently had the pleasure of taking some really nice homeschool kids out urban foraging and we had a blast! Their mom wrote me after saying the experience had been greatly inspiring to them and ignited a real love of plants and herbs!
Also, as always, keep me in mind if you’re drawn to exploring the emotional and metaphysical healing properties of plants with Plant Spirit Reiki.