New strawberry species found in Oregon
July 12, 2013
• May result in new flavors or disease resistance
• “The new strawberry species begins growing after snowmelt”
Newly discovered strawberry near Hoodoo Mountain, in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains
(Photo by Kim Hummer/ARS)
A recently discovered wild strawberry provides new genetic material for plant research and may lead to a new class of commercial strawberries, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist. Genes from the newly created strawberries may yield new flavors or disease resistance.
Agricultural Research Service scientist Kim Hummer, with the National Clonal Germplasm Repository at Corvallis, Ore., found the new species during several plant collection expeditions in the high peaks of Oregon's Cascade Mountains. She named it Fragaria cascadensis.
“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,” says Ms. Hummer. “The fruits of plants at about 5,000 feet elevation ripen 1 to 2 weeks later than those at 3,280 feet.”
The new strawberry is a perennial plant with white flowers and green leaves, and it differs from other strawberry species of the region by having hairs on the upper side of its leaves, comma-shaped, small brown fruits called "achenes" on the strawberry surface, and 10 sets of chromosomes, unlike the eight sets in commercial strawberries.
The northern distribution range of the plant has an average annual precipitation of 12 to 15 inches, but the southern range receives only about six inches of precipitation annually.
According to Ms. Hummer, the new strawberry's biggest impact could come by crossing it with other strawberries having the same number of chromosomes, such as the cultivated F. vescana or the wild Russian species F. iturpensis. Those crosses could produce hybrids with disease resistance, improved flavor, or other important traits.
“In the future, consumers could benefit from the knowledge gained and genes provided by this new wild strawberry,” Ms. Hummer says.