The strawberry plant family has a new member after a U.S. Department of Agriculture biologist discovered a previously undocumented species of wild mountain strawberry. The strawberry grows only in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, at elevations of between 3,000 and 5,000 feet, Popular Science reported.
The plant initially appears similar to species of wild strawberries that grow in Washington, Oregon and California. But -- according to the USDA’s Kim Hummer, who discovered the berry -- its genetic makeup greatly differs from those plants.
The strawberry, which Hummer named Fragaria cascadensis, has 10 sets of chromosomes compared with the eight found in the other strawberries that grow in the region. These extra chromosomes would usually equate to a larger fruit, but the new plant parts ways with science there as its berries are small.
And, when it comes to taste, Hummer contended the plant’s berries aren’t all that appetizing. “Flavorwise, it [has] a sugar-acid mix. It has a white interior. It’s soft,” she noted. As a result, she said, “It would take a lot of developing to make a commercially viable fruit out of it.”
The berries ripen in August and are edible, even though they might not be that tasty. For hikers who are nonetheless interested in tasting the berries, Hummer told Popular Science they can be found on the “western, wetter side of the Cascade Mountains, off the Pacific Crest Trail.”
The plant can be most easily identified by tiny hairs on the surface of its leaves as well as by its comma-shaped seeds -- the other berries in the area have teardrop-shaped seeds.
Appropriately enough, the USDA has added a sample of Fragaria cascadensis to its plant bank in Corvallis, Ore.