Waldsteinia fragarioides (Barren Strawberry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist to dry woods, pine forest
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:4 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flower] Yellow flowers in sparse clusters on a branching stem, only a few flowers are open at a time. Flowers are around ½ inch across with 5 round to elliptic petals with numerous yellow stamens in the center. The petals alternate with five sharply pointed sepals that are shorter than the petals. Multiple small leaflet-like bracts are often present where the flower stalks diverge at the top of the stem. The outside of the sepals and the stems are hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaf] Leaves are basal and palmately compound in groups of 3 on a stalk about as long as the leaf blade. Leaflets are fan-shaped, 1 to 1½ inches long and as wide, straight tapered below the middle, the upper half rounded and coarsely toothed and often obscurely 3-lobed, finely hairy to nearly smooth throughout. It can create large colonies from creeping rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

Fruit is a seed head made up of 2-6 dry seeds (achenes).


Barren Strawberry, sometimes known as Geum fragarioides, is fairly common just east across the border throughout northern Wisconsin and eastward. But at the extreme NW extent of its range, it is rare in Minnesota where it is limited to a few scattered populations in our north central and northeastern counties. It was listed as a state Special Concern species by the DNR in 1984. Its preferred habitat is upland conifer or conifer hardwood mixed forests in moist to dry, but not wet soils, and, while it can tolerate both full sun and deep shade its preference seems to be a broken canopy. As its common suggests, it looks much to be like a strawberry except for its bright yellow flowers. When it is in flower, it is unlikely to be confused  with anything else except perhaps Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex) at a glance. That however produces prolific runners and its compound leaves have 5 leaflets. Without the flower it can be distinguished from our native strawberries (Fragaria) by its broader leaflets with coarsely toothed or lobed edges, vs. the shiny upper surface and evenly serrated edges of F. vesca. It also produces no fleshy fruit and lacks the above ground runners found in strawberries. While the DNR lists var. fragarioides in Minnesota, there is no information available about other varieties, either distribution range or description.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Carlton County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Erica - Roseville, MN
on: 2014-06-12 13:44:32

This might also be confused with Indian strawberry (Duchesnea indica) when it is blooming, as they both have yellow flowers. However Indian strawberry has a red, tasteless fruit. It appears to me that Indian strawberry has an above ground runner / vine. As I understand it, Duchesnea indica is not native and is found in at least one Roseville park.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-06-12 14:06:05

Duchesnea indica has not been recorded as present in "the wild" in Minnesota. If it is in a park somewhere it may have been planted there.

Posted by: Blair - Rochester
on: 2014-11-12 22:44:58

Duchesnia indica is becoming a huge invasive problem in a natural area that I help manage within the Rochester city limits. I just found it to be a curiosity in lawn grass a couple of years ago, but now as I've been documenting garlic mustard infestations I've found this plant aggresively moving into woodlands as well!

Posted by: Gabriel - South Minneapolis
on: 2016-05-01 00:54:09

I have this plant in a sunny rain garden, or thought I did. But it may actually be Waldsteinia ternata, an Asian and European species. Not sure what the differences are, but my plant doesn't produce any seed, and it has wider petals and slightly differently shaped leaflets than the plants in the photos here. The middle leaflet is longer.

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