The Reproduction of Strawberry Plants

  • Okay so it's the time of year where I start my tomato seeds off, and thinking about my vegtable garden. So I have some strawberry plants 30 or 40, which started off as 6 plants I bought in '09.

    At some point in late spring/early summer these plants flower and the bees come and fertilise the flowers, the centre part of the flower starts to swell and slowly becomes a strawberry. Covered in seeds. So someone eats the fruit, wanders off then takes a dump and some of the seeds turn into new plants.

    And that is how strawberry plants reproduce.

    But that is not all. See the strawberry plants also send out little shoots a couple of feet or so in length which take root in nearby soil, at the end of the shoot is a tiny little strawberry plant which seems to be fed by its mother plant via the shoot until it has established its roots in the soil, then the shoot dies leaving 2 separate plants.

    So strawberry plants reproduce in 2 ways. Hmmm. This seems strange to me. I assume the asexual reproduction preceeded the seeding method of reproduction in the ancestors of my plants. (is this true?)

    Rather it seems strange that some plants reproduce PURELY by the seeding method, that they no longer do the asexual reproduction thing, and some still do both. I guess there are probably some which only do the asexual thing.

    My question is; Why do my plants reproduce in 2 different ways? If natural selection favours one way over the other way, why has one not been selected away?

    Any interesting link would be gratefully recieved, on anything about agricultural selection in general. I find selection within agriculture interesting, but the strawberry thing has just started bugging me...

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  • Humans can also reproduce asexually, admittedly, identical twins are far less common than strawberry plant shoots.

    I need to do some more research on banana plants. I know they don't reproduce using seeds, but I have one lone banana plant which is 3 years old and hasn't fruited yet. I have been dutifully cutting all the sucker plants which develop around it as I was told to. Until it fruits, then allow one of the suckers to grow and chop down the parent plant. I'd love to dig these suckers out and plant them elsewhere but I was told they don't develop new roots anyway. But there must be a way of starting new banana plants off the parent plant, otherwise how did they pot my parent plant at the nursery?

    Off to google. Interesting :-)

  • Thanks for asking this question, it seems my Yates gardening guide gave me a bum steer, now I know what I'm doing wrong with my banana tree! Pretty much everything! I'm going to embark on creating an oasis of them in my backyard now and plan my chicken run and grey water irrigation :-)

  • "If natural selection favours one way over the other way"

    It doesn't. Each one has it's advantages in different circumstances. Particularly being immobile, giving up asexual reproduction would be very dangerous for a plant lineage.

    Multiple methods of reproduction are quite common within the same species throughout all branches of the tree of life - including many animals; it is certainly not limited to plants.

    Sorry, no interesting links ... I do have a few books though if you really were interested ... though I don't have the best books for this; plant reproduction often still boggles my mind - they do some REALLY wacky things.

  • I love your garden Dave! I'm trying to do the same in my own little patch of urban serenity.

  • @ Linda - I'd love to dig these suckers out and plant them elsewhere but I was told they don't develop new roots anyway.

    I live in zone 7 where there are few banana species hardy enough to survive - I currently have 2 different varieties. I have propagated both asexually many times; the shoots absolutely develop roots, I have rooted shoots with as little as a couple of "root hairs" successfully.

    Try putting your newly dug shoots in some moist sand or a mixture of perlite and vermiculite (50/50 seems to work well for sticking cuttings of just about anything). The perlite allows for oxygen and the vermiculite holds moisture, just keep slightly damp - don't feed!

  • Duncan,

    I am up early and off to a long day, haven't looked in here for a while now either, I will try to give you a decent answer when I slow down later tonight.

    Strawberries are wierd (and tasty), so they get a lot of horticultural attention.

    This makes for piles of info on them that is simply not available in species that are not utilized.

    They function along various lines of behavior, not all strawberries make runners such as the smaller "alpine strawberries" which are very close to wild strawberries, many species of which do not produce runners but do come true to type from seed.

    They also flower according to photoperiod length.

    As such we have "junebearing" requiring the longest days of the year to flower, "everbearing" which actually need a little less than the longest days to flower making really two close together crops, and "day-neutral"; like it sounds, they are not photoperiod sensitive.

    There is a gardening expression; "he really knows his onions" which relates to the light sensitivity and day length tolerances of the aliums, other plants share these same traits but in strawberries we pay more attention, I suppose because they taste great.

    There is not true-to-type reproduction from seed either in cultivated plants, because of this the only way to make more of a particular cultivar is to do so by propagation of plant tissue.

    This is done in labs in some cases to avoid viruses being introduced on more valuable cultivars, but also can be done naturally or nature can be helped by burying runners to aid the process.

    Starting plants from cuttings is a great way to get kids interested, since they can really see what the results of their "little" experiment produces.

    Try willow cuttings about the size of a pencil, clip them off, toss them in a refrigerator for about a month in some peat or sterile medium to keep moist, and just put them in the ground halfway buds facing up.;-)

    There is an impressive stand of weeping willows at our old place along a waterway that began as a little kid's handful of twigs over 20 years ago, that kid is now my son Jeremiah, and it's hard to get him to come inside.

    Science and observation never ends, hope that helps a bit.

  • We can compare this with gene selection: Gene selection is like computers logic, only 0's and 1's. But than again, being 0 or 1 means, there is a %50 chance that it can go either way for every gene. And important aspects of the organism are not only one gene dependent, so there is much more different possibilities than two...

    Natural selection for plants and animals is not so easy and there is no formula for who will survive. The strategies which are used by the organisms, have been evolved in millions of years and they are more complicated than we can imagine...

    Most of the time we don't know how all this different strategies are inherited, but for example we are born with a sucking reflex, or a fungus can form a spor in difficullt environment conditions. By combination of different genes, living beings can take advantage of different (many) strategies to survive and reproduce.

    For natural selection the main issue is to survive, to have living off-springs. And if the issue is something like reproduction, which lies in the core of survival of the organism, it is normal to expect that there are many different strategies, which can be used in varying environment conditions.

  • I suspect that much asexual propagation by plants, like strawberries, is about excluding competition. Strawberries in the wild pack very closely together subduing other growth and thereby exposing more blooms and fruit to pollinators and seed dispersers.

    But thanks for the memory. I remember two patches of Saskatchewan where I could lie on my tummy in one spot without moving and eat strawberries no bigger than a fingernail until satisfied . Those spots were so precious that I never shared them with another person.