Arbutus unedo fruit

Arbutus unedo fruit

Arbutus unedo or strawberry tree is a small tree or shrub whose fruit looks like strawberries.

It grows better in a Mediterranean climate and will rarely produce fruit in colder climates.

It resists coastal conditions and air pollution.

Description:

Arbutus unedo is a small tree of 5-10 m which often grows as a shrub, with branches starting low. The stem is up to 80 cm in diameter.

Leaves are dark green and glossy, 5-10 cm long and 2-3 cm wide.

The flowers are white, sometimes light pink, hermaphrodite, bell-shaped, 4-6 mm in diameter and appear in umbels of 10-30 flowers in autumn.

The fruit is a berry of 1-2 cm in diameter with a rough surface. It takes 12 months before for the fruit to ripen, so the tree often bears flowers and fruit simultaneously. The taste is rather bland and mealy.

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Arbutus, Killarney Strawberry Tree, Strawberry Madrone, Strawberry Tree

Synonyms:

Arbutus cassinifolia, Arbutus crispa, Arbutus croomii, Arbutus integrifolia, Arbutus intermedia, Arbutus laurifolia, Arbutus microphylla, Arbutus nothocomaros, Arbutus pavarii, Arbutus procumbens, Arbutus salicifolia, Arbutus serratifolia, Arbutus turbinata, Arbutus unedo var. ellipsoidea, Arbutus unedo var. salicifolia, Arbutus unedo f. subcrenata, Arbutus vulgaris

Etymology:

Arbutus: the Latin name for the plant
Unedo: would be derived from the Latin unum edo (I eat one), referring to the bland taste which would not incite to eat more than one

Origin:

Mediterranean area although they are also found in the wild in Ireland

Habitat:

Forest, scrub and rocky slopes, often on limestone and sandstone



Hardiness:

USDA zones 7-11

Arbutus unedo tree

Arbutus unedo tree

Care:

Soil:

Sandy, loamy to clay soils but with good drainage. Salt tolerant.

Exposure:

Sun, partial shade

Water:

Mature plants are drought resistent

Propagation:

Seed or cuttings.

Sowing instructions:

  • use fresh seed or soak the seeds a few days in lukewarm water
  • sow at the end of the winter, sprouting happens in spring
  • sow in moist potting soil
  • protect the seedlings from direct sunlight
  • ensure good ventilation to avoid rotting of seeds and seedlings
  • transplant when the seedlings are big enough to be handled
  • plant in place when the seedlings are 20-30 cm tall

Cutting instructions:

  • in november-december
  • take hardwood cuttings of 15-20 cm, preferably with a heel
  • plant the cuttings in a cold frame
  • use enough cuttings as success rate is quite small. Success rate can be enhanced by using cutting hormone.

Image sources

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