Many Hudson Valley residents are finding that they have wild strawberries growing in their yards this year.  Are they safe to eat?

Thanks to an unusually mild winter, the ecosystem in New York State seems to be all out of whack this year. From a bumper crop of pine cones to an invasion of spongy moths, it's been a strange spring.

Now, many Hudson Valley residents are discovering that wild strawberries are growing in their yards. But are they safe to eat?

Why Are Strawberries Growing in My Yard?

A friend of mine recently posted a photo of some strawberries that she discovered growing "in the wild". She proudly showed them off and explained that they weren't quite ripe yet with a caption that read "Plucked too soon and tasted like dirt".

I almost didn't have the heart to tell her that these weren't, in fact, strawberries.

Jackie Corley
Jackie Corley

What she had eaten was a weed that looks very similar to strawberries called Potentilla indica, or "mock strawberries".

Beware of Mock Strawberries Growing in New York State

Potentilla indica is an invasive plant from southern Asia that now blooms throughout New York from spring through early summer. The plant has leaves and fruit that look strikingly similar to strawberries, but they are definitely not strawberries.

The mock strawberry plant can be found growing in areas where real strawberry plants also thrive. While their leaves, color and shape are almost identical to the popular fruit, Potentilla indica hold their seeds in raised bumps, unlike a strawberry that has its seeds embedded in its skin.

Canva/Jackie Corley
Canva/Jackie Corley

What Happens if You Eat a Mock Strawberry?

The good news is that Potentilla indica isn't believed to be toxic. However, it's not something that you probably want to start snacking on. As my friend pointed out, the mock strawberry tastes like "dirt". The bland fruit lacks any of the aroma and sweetness of a real strawberry and while it won't kill you, it may give you a bit of a stomach ache if you eat too much of it.

Some believe the leaves of the mock strawberry can be used as a holistic medicine. Even in that case they're not usually ingested, but ground into a paste that's applied to rashes, bug bites and other skin conditions.

Horticultural experts say to avoid popping any wild fruit into your mouth unless you're 100% certain it's edible. While Potentilla indica isn't poisonous, there are many other wild plants that are.

5 of New York's Most Devastating Invasive Species

Here are 5 species that have invaded New York State and in some cases they must be killed. We are talking about fish that walk on land, plants that cause severe burns and insects that could wipe out a variety of crops that we rely on.

Keep an eye out for these species and you hike, work around the yard or do some fishing this year. Should you locate any of these it is important to report where and when you found them to the New York State DEC.

Gallery Credit: Karolyi

The 10 Most Invasive Animals & Insects in New York State

There's nothing worse than an unwanted guest.

Gallery Credit: Will Phillips

More From WIBX 950