Field of Science

What's in a name? Strawberry?

The origins of plant names is fun, fascinating, and frought with ambiguities for those who choose to figure some of them out. English as a conglomerate of languages has more than its share of strange word origins. Strawberry is one of them. Now the genus is not much of a problem. Fragaria - clearly from the same root as fragrance, and, oh, do ripe strawberries smell good! But what's straw got to do with these berries? Perhaps this is one of those sound alike sideways changes that are so perplexing. Maybe they were strewberries; to strew meaning to sprawl along the ground, which certainly describes their growth pattern by runners, stolons. Even more interesting is the Shrewsbury Cake, sort of a short bread cake with a strawberry jam layer in the middle. Could this have been a strewberry cake, rather than a confection named for a small city in the UK? Well, who knows, and if you have some ideas to add, well, do tell. But the Phactor just picked a couple of quarts from our little patch, so guess what we're having for dessert?


Matt DiLeo said...


or maybe they grew under grain straw - i saw a bunch of wild ones in a barley field last summer.

nycguy said...

Don't strawberry growers traditionally place straw around the plants to keep the berries out of the dirt?

Dunno if that's the source or the result of the name. The same dirty habit is noted in the German name earth-berry.