The Strawberry Tree is an evergreen tree which provides year-round interest with characterful reddish bark, leathery glossy green foliage, pretty white bell flowers which bloom in October until January, followed by decorative fruits in autumn which start green and turn red slowly over a long period of time.
Arbutus unedo is ideal for a bright, moist and well-drained position, sheltered from strong drying winds or harsh frosts.
Native to the Mediterranean and Western Ireland, Arbutus unedo is one of the many species described by Carl Linnaeus in his landmark 1753 work Species Plantarum.
The fruits of Arbutus unedo are large and pendulous, looking somewhat like lychee but bright red in colour. These are edible, though they don’t have a flavour akin to strawberries and are quite bland, though they can be used to make marmalade. In Portugal a traditional fruit brandy ‘Medronho’ is made from them.
The name unedo was given by Pliny the Elder from the Latin ‘unum edo’, meaning ‘eat once’ – because, whilst the fruit is edible, they are so insipid that he would only eat one of them.
Simultaneous Fruits and Flowers
The fruits of the Strawberry Tree takes almost a year to ripen, so in autumn as new flowers begin to bloom, the fruit from the previous year ripen to strawberry red. This creates an unusual situation where the plant has both attractive flowers and ripe fruit at the same time.
The flowers of this tree are also incredibly valuable, providing a brilliant food source for bumblebees, which love the large quantities of nectar in the flowers.
Because of these fruits and flowers, Arbutus unedo has a full four season interest, making it perfect either as a specimen plant or an always interesting hedging plant.
Care & Size Guidance
Arbutus unedo does not like to have its roots disturbed, so it is best to plant them into their final position as soon as possible. Its growth rate is slow when young, but increases slightly with age.