Native beach strawberry has a growth habit that varies from tightly compact and prostrate to open and upright. It has thick, leathery evergreen leaves that are generally glossy green. The flowers are white with yellow centers and range from dime-sized to 1.5 inches in diameter. In western Washington, flowering begins in early to mid-April and lasts until the end of June. The bloom period is a few weeks shorter in eastern Washington.
As a landscape ground cover, beach strawberry is both attractive and functional. The foliage provides year-round greenery, and older leaves take on a reddish hue during the fall and winter.The profuse runnering capacity of beach strawberry enables it to cover an area quickly and thoroughly, thereby preventing weed establishment. This runnering ability, combined with a fibrous root system, makes it useful in hillside stabilization and erosion control. It is an alternative to turf on steep embankments that are dangerous to mow.
Depending on genetic differences, tested plants varied in their ability to withstand drought stress. Some were extremely drought tolerant and could survive on normal annual precipitation. Others required supplemental irrigation during initial establishment and during extended dry periods of more than four weeks. A third group required supplemental irrigation similar to other low-water-use perennials.
Since beach strawberry has a wide natural distribution that includes numerous climatic zones, this species has a range of cold hardiness. Future work at WSU will include establishing field trials in the northern and eastern parts of the state. When this research is complete, WSU will release several selections of beach strawberry adapted to different growing conditions.
(Webmaster's Note 2010: Unfortunately, the researcher left WSU before the research was complete so no selections were released)
For further information contact your local WSU Extension Office.