Now that you’ve closely examined a strawberry, you can never look at it the same way again.
It looks like Santa Claus’ beard in his teen years…
Not to worry. Those little hairs you see on that strawberry are merely part of the Achenes. An achene you might be familiar with is that of the ubiquitous dandelion. Note the fuzzy bits…
“This doesn’t look like a strawberry I’ve ever seen.”
An achene is simply “a dry fruit which does not bloom or release its seed upon maturity.”
Other plants that produce achenes you might know, besides the dandelion and the strawberry, are roses (the rose hips), buckwheat, and cannabis.
When you are eating a strawberry, you are actually eating an “aggregate fruit” (not a berry), as the strawberry body is kind of like a holder for all the achenes, and the achenes each have a seed inside them.
What you eat is the “accessory flesh” of the strawberry (let the nightmares ensue, bet you’ve never hear the phrase “accessory flesh” before), which is the medium in which the strawberry’s seeds are mounted.
Now to get to the hair: Most of the hair seems to be a vestige of earlier development. Here’s a picture of a strawberry forming. This picture, of a strawberry flower, shows the development of all the typical elements.
Exhibit A: the early stages of the development of a strawberry.
The flowers bloom, attract some friendly pollinators (such as bees), and you get the development of the strawberry as we know it.
Exhibit B: the beginning of a strawberry bud.
So, from our examination of the development of a strawberry, it appears that the larger hairs are the remains of filaments (which previously held up the anthers), which are now attached to the fully-formed achenes.
From these pictures, however, we can also see many much smaller hairs, which run along the entirety of the plant, and which also seem to be on the strawberry body itself.
Many plants have regions that have evolved to not be eaten—regions that provide disincentives to hungry animals. Some of these disincentives come in the form of indigestible material, such as fibrous hairs.
Other regions have evolved to be eaten, so that animals will spread the plant’s seeds. The delicious part of the strawberry is there to encourage you (or a bear, or a bird) to eat it and thereby spread the seeds of the plant to wherever your travels may take you. It appears to me that some of the “disincentivizing hairs” still form (or are taken up into the fruit in the process of the formation from the base) on the strawberry.
We assume that since they are so few in number and so small, these tiny hairs don’t discourage animals from eating the strawberry in any significant way, and therefore were not selected against the drive to create a tantalizing incentive to spread the strawberry plant’s seeds.
In conclusion, it seems like we have two types of hair that we’re dealing with; the remains of the filaments and the evolutionary layover from the “don’t eat me part of the plant.”