The Unusual Strawberry That Left Reddit Disturbed

We love writing about bizarre berries at Mashed, like the record-breaking giant that looks like it swallowed its strawberry friends and family. So when u/yoyome85 posted a photo montage of strawberries with small leaves sprouting from the seeds on Reddit, it got our attention — along with some other Redditors who sprouted comments ranging from confusion, to wonder, to disgust.

In Reddit's Damnthatsinteresting community, commenters said, "That's actually kinda unsettling. Lol," and "Looks like a nose full of blackheads."

With budding speculation, commenters blamed the impromptu Chia Pet on everything from hormones to chemicals to temperature to disintegration. The photo propagated many theories among the mostly amateur gardeners: "They only sprout like this when the berry is starting to disintegrate. How are they doing this with fresh strawberries?"

Neuroses took root. "I instantly had my trypophobia triggered by this photo lol," said another commenter.

The blossoming berries fed disdain for those already unimpressed with the inside-out fruit: "Yeah... and now I get it.... Always hated strawberries.... Stupid seeds...." 

But those external "seeds" are not actually seeds, and strawberries aren't actually berries (berries have seeds on the inside). According to The Spruce, the little yellow specks dotting the red exterior are called achenes, which are the actual fruit containing a seed within. An average-sized strawberry holds about 200 achenes.

What made the strawberry look so odd?

The sweet, red part that we love to eat in pies and shakes is actually "the swollen receptacle tissue — the part of the plant that connects the flower to the stem," according to Yum.

The truth about u/yoyome85's hairy strawberry is that it's experiencing a phenomenon called vivipary, where the achenes sprout green shoots, according to Erik, the site's strawberry guy, explained: "Vivipary occurs frequently in some plants, but only intermittently in others, like the strawberry." During vivipary, seeds are germinated immediately while still attached to the parent plant.

The red mangrove tree and poa alpina grass regularly demonstrate vivipary and rapid germination, says Erik. Like these two plants, the strawberry's rapid germination "doesn't preclude it from being planted and growing normally." However, if you plant a viviparous berry, Erik advises leaving space between planting to allow for sprouting. 

Vivipary is different from seed germination, which is the growth that occurs when the fruit is overripe, says Erik. A strawberry going through vivipary can have little sprouts flowering the red part, or it can be completely covered in green. It's edible, but if you are tempted to rip off the tiny greens to put in a salad, we suggest using the sweet fleshy part instead — say in a strawberry salad.