By B. Ellen von Oostenburg

A strawberry is an herb although most of us think of it as fruit. The strawberry plants grown and sold by commercial growers are hermaphrodite. This means the individual strawberry plants can pollinate themselves. The plant will bare fruit based on how many flowers it produces and how effectively they are pollinated. Strawberry plants have traditionally been pollinated by bees, other bugs and the wind. To insure high crop yield, strawberry plants are hand pollinated.

Watch for white flowers to start blooming on the strawberry plants.

Identify what the stamen and stigmas of the plant look like. The stamen is the the male, pollen laden part of the flower. In one flower head there are around 20 male parts. The stigma is the female, receptive part of the flower’s anatomy. Each flower will have between 100 to 400 female parts.

Use a magnifying glass if the pollen can’t be seen with the naked eye.

Take a small artist’s brush and pick up pollen from the stamens with the tip of the the brush and brush it over the the stigmas. The stigmas will be at the center of the flowers and have open, tube-like mouths with which to receive the pollen.

Watch for the pollinated flower to wilt. This will happen anywhere from the time it’s hand pollinated and 48 hours later. The flower wilting indicates the pollen successfully traveled through the stigma and down the style and fertilized the ovary.

On average the flowers should produce fruit in 30 days from fertilization. If the weather has been cool and wet and it can take up to 40 days. With good growing conditions and warm weather it can take as little as 18 days.