Alpine Strawberry

Alpine Strawberry

Common Name: Alpine Strawberry, Fraises des Bois, Woodland Strawberry

Scientific Name: Fragaria vesca

Thomas Jefferson first noted sowing three rows of seeds of "Fragole Alpine" at Monticello on March 31, 1774.[1] Having evidently acquired specimens of the plant in Europe, Jefferson included the Alpine strawberry in a list of baggage he had shipped from France in 1789.[2] In a later letter to James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson included the Alpine strawberry as one of the "three objects which you should endeavor to enrich our country with."[3] Jefferson grew this variety both at Monticello and at Poplar Forest.[4] In 1798, he sent more Alpine strawberries to Thomas Mann Randolph from Philadelphia for planting at Monticello.[5] In 1807, he asked Bernard McMahon for Alpine strawberry seeds, but McMahon had trouble fulfilling the order, which might suggest a scarcity of this plant in gardens at the time.[6] Jefferson also obtained seeds of the Alpine strawberry from James Worthington in 1805 and 1808, and purchased plants from both McMahon and John Bartram, Jr.[7]

Although the Alpine strawberry flourished at Monticello, a sometimes-troublesome characteristic of this variety was the tiny size of the fruit. Jefferson stated bluntly, "it would take acres to yield a dish."[8]

This European wildflower makes a compact, mounded plant with few, if any, runners, and produces fruit throughout the growing season. It has white flowers and small crimson berries that are very flavorful when fully ripe.

- Text from Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet

Primary Source References

1782 February 12. "sent to Poplar For....some white strawberries."[9]

1786 August 12. (Jefferson to Richard Cary). "The Alpine strawberry I expect you have got from Mr. Eppes."[10]

1801 June 11. (Jefferson to John Bartram, Jr.) "...will you be so good as to plant for me in pots some plants of the Alpine, Hudson & Chile strawberries in a pot [each variety]..."[11]

1807 February 25. (Bernard McMahon to Jefferson). "The Alpine Strawberry is extremely scarce here; however, I think I shall be able to procure you some before the planting season in the ensuing autumn."[12]

1807 April 2. (Bernard McMahon to Jefferson). "I do myself the pleasure of sending you...8 plants of the true red Alpine Strawberry, being all I could procure of these kinds at present. They are packed in moss, in the larger of two boxes sent, so carefully, as not to suffer the least injury even if they should not be planted till the beginning of next month."[13]

1807 April 30. (Weather Memorandum Book). "planted 6. scarlet Alpine strawberry roots from McMahon on the lower side of the Peruvian tussock, within a few inches."[14]

1808 January 22. (Ann Cary Randolph to Jefferson). "the Alpine Strawberries are doing very well."[15]

1808 April 15. (Ann Cary Randolph to Jefferson). "the Strawberries...all look very well. of the Alpine Strawberries that Davy brought 3 are flourishing. but I am afraid the others are entirely dead."[16]

1809. "Alpine strawby seed. from Mazzei...lowest bed Nursery earthen trough...[sowed] Apr. 10."[17]

1809 April 13. "planted 32. seeds of the Mimosa Julibritzin in the earthen trough, in which were also sowed on the 10th. inst. seeds of the Alpine Strawberry from Mazzei."[18]

1809 April 26. "sowed Monthly strawberry seed from Colo. Worthington in Nursery E. corner."[19]

1810 June 22. (Jefferson to John Mason). "I have the genuine Alpine strawberry, which I recieved from Italy. but it bears so little that I think it would take acres to yield a dish. I propose therefore to remove it from the garden to the fields where alone we have acres to spare. should it prove worth attention I will send you some."[20]

1812 March 1. "Strawberries. Hudson. 3d. Ter. 1. a. Alpine. circular Terras. 4.5."[21]

1812 March 18. (Jefferson to George Divers). "I promised to stock you with the Alpine Strawberry as soon as my beds would permit. I now send you a basket of plants & can spare you 10. baskets more if you desire it. their value, you know, is the giving strawberries 8. months in the year. but they require a large piece of ground and therefore I am moving them into the truck patch, as I cannot afford them room enough in the garden."[22]

1812 March 18. (George Divers to Jefferson). "I receiv'd the alpine strawberry plants sent by your Servant, for which accept my thanks."[23]

ca. 1813-1815. "Method of distinguishing or designating the terasses below the garden wall, according to the squares of the garden to which they are opposite. A. the curved terrases at the West end of the garden...5.6. Alpine strawberries."[24]

Further Sources

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Discussion

says

I planted two packets-full of these little guys this spring - they were slightly difficult to germinate, but once they got going I was shocked to see them producing flowers and fruit within just a few months. I ate the first one this morning!

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