Thursday, October 11, 2012
This is the third year that I've had the strawberry bush in my garden. This native perennial shrub can get up to six feet tall, but mine isn't nearly that size yet. Four feet maybe. Last spring the plant was covered in rather insignificant yellowish-green blossoms and now it is full of the much more significant and noticeable red, warty fruits that do, in fact, look quite a bit like strawberries. When the pods mature, around this time of year, they burst open revealing the red seeds inside and also revealing how the plant got another of its common names, "bursting heart" or "hearts-a-burstin'-love."
In the wild, the seeds of this shrub are allegedly consumed by wildlife such as Wild Turkeys and various songbirds and deer like it so well that they will keep it grazed to the ground, which can eventually extirpate the plant from an area where there are lots of deer. I have not noticed any of the wildlife in my yard making use of the plant, but perhaps that will change this winter.
In homeopathic and traditional medicine, the plant has uses as a laxative and as treatment for various problems of the intestines and abdominal area. But probably its greatest use today is as an ornamental shrub, and it can be quite ornamental especially in the late fall and winter garden, with its bright green stems and red seed pods.
It seems very tolerant and forgiving regarding soil and growing conditions. It gets very minimal care in my garden. I pretty much just plopped it into the bed three years ago and it has been on its own since. I did provide some supplemental water during our almost two year drought, but with the increased rain this year, it hasn't been watered and it has thrived. It's been a fun plant to have around and to get to know.
If you are looking for an unusual native plant to add to your garden, take a look at the strawberry bush. It might be just what your garden needs.