The Arbutus Unedo, commonly known as the Strawberry Tree, is a captivating evergreen shrub that has captured the hearts of many garden enthusiasts and botanists alike. Its unique combination of beautiful flowers, intriguing bark, and edible fruits make it a standout in any garden.
- Arbutus Unedo is not related to the common strawberry but has bright red fruits.
- It's an ornamental broadleaf evergreen with historical significance in Western cultures.
- The tree offers year-round interest with its flowers, fruits, and exfoliating bark.
- The fruits are edible and have been used to make alcoholic beverages in some cultures.
The Strawberry Tree has been appreciated in Western cultures for centuries. The ancient Greeks used its wood for flute-making, while the Romans, including Pliny the Elder, mentioned it in their writings. The tree has also been symbolized in various artworks, including Hieronymus Bosch’s painting ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’. Madrid, Spain, even features the Arbutus in its coat of arms.
Flowers and Fruits
The real show-stoppers of the Strawberry Tree are its flowers and fruits. The tiny white bell-shaped flowers bloom from October to December. Simultaneously, the fruits from the previous year's pollination ripen. These fruits take 10-12 months to mature, turning from green to yellow, then orange, and finally a bright red by winter. They are edible and have a light pear-like flavor.
Bark and Leaves
The tree's multiple trunks boast a cinnamon brown bark that exfoliates as it ages, adding to its ornamental value. Its leaves are shiny, dark green, and ovate, with a serrate edge and red petiole.
Cultivation and Care
Though related to the native madrone, the Strawberry Tree is more suitable for garden cultivation. It prefers sandy to loamy soils but can tolerate heavy clay. While it grows in dappled light in its native habitat, in the Pacific Northwest, it prefers full sun.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the fruit of the Strawberry Tree edible?
Yes, the fruit is edible and can be eaten fresh or prepared. It has a light pear-like flavor. However, it's essential to note that the fruits start fermenting once ripe, so consuming too many can lead to inebriation.
How tall does the Strawberry Tree grow?
The tree can reach heights of 30’ but is typically around 15-20’ tall with a 10-15’ spread to the crown.
Are there any medicinal properties of the Strawberry Tree?
Various cultures have used the fruit, leaves, and bark of the plant in traditional folk medicines for its antifungal and antibacterial properties.