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Arbutus unedo - L.                
                 
Common Name Strawberry Tree
Family Ericaceae
Synonyms
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Woodland, scrub and rocky hillsides, often on limestone and sandstone[17, 45].
Range S. Europe and S.W. Ireland.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary       
Bloom Color: Pink, White. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Early winter, Late fall, Late winter, Mid fall, Mid winter. Form: Rounded.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of cone
Arbutus unedo is an evergreen Tree growing to 9 m (29ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Oct to December, and the seeds ripen from Oct to December. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is self-fertile.


USDA hardiness zone : 7-11


Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree


(c) 2010 Ken Fern & Plants For A Future
Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree
(c) 2010 Ken Fern & Plants For A Future
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Sweet but insipid[2, 3, 5]. The Latin name 'unedo' means 'I eat one (only)' and suggests that the fruit is not very palatable[K], though another report says that the fruit is so delicious that a person only needs to eat one[245]. It does have a somewhat gritty skin, but the fruit itself has the texture of a lush tropical fruit and has a delicate pleasant flavour. For those people with sensitive taste buds, this is a fruit that can be enjoyed when eaten in moderate quantities[K]. The fruit contains about 20% sugars and can be used to make delicious and nourishing jams and preserves[7]. It is ripe in November/December and is about 15mm in diameter. When fully ripe it falls from the tree and so it is advisable to grow the plant in short grass in order to cushion the fall of the fruit[K].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiseptic;  Astringent;  Diuretic.

The strawberry tree is little used in herbalism, though it does deserve modern investigation[268]. All parts of the plant contain ethyl gallate, a substance that possesses strong antibiotic activity against the Mycobacterium bacteria[268]. The leaves, bark and root are astringent and diuretic[7, 46, 268]. They are also a renal antiseptic[7] and so are of use in the treatment of affections of the urinary system such as cystitis and urethritis[254]. Their astringent action makes them of use in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery and, like many other astringent plants, a gargle can be made for treating sore and irritated throats[254]. The leaves are gathered in the summer and dried for later use[7]. The flowers are weakly diaphoretic[268].
Other Uses
Tannin;  Wood.

Tannin is obtained from the leaves, bark and fruit[46, 61]. The bark contains 45% tannin[46]. Wood - used for turning, Greek flutes etc[89, 148]. It makes a good charcoal[4, 89, 148].
Cultivation details                                         
Landscape Uses:Container, Espalier, Pest tolerant, Hedge, Standard, Specimen. Requires a nutrient-rich well-drained moisture-retentive soil in sun or semi-shade and shelter from cold drying winds, especially when young[11, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils and in dry soils. Most species in this genus require a lime-free soil but this species is fairly lime tolerant[11, 200]. Succeeds in fairly exposed maritime positions[166, 200]. A tree in a very exposed position at Rosewarne in N. Cornwall was looking rather tattered in April 1987 but it was 4.5 metres tall and carrying a very good crop of immature fruit[K]. Tolerates industrial pollution[200]. Plants have withstood temperatures down to -16°c without injury at Kew[11]. They grow very well in S.W. England, fruiting well in Cornwall[49, 59]. Plants resent root disturbance and are best placed in their final positions whilst young[11, 134]. Give them some protection in their first winter. The strawberry tree flowers in November and December, the fruit takes 12 months to ripen and so the tree carries both mature fruit and flowers at the same time and is incredibly beautiful at this time[K]. The flowers have a soft honey scent[245]. There are a number of named varieties[183] developed for their ornamental value. 'Elfin King', 'Croomei' and 'Rubra' are all small forms that fruit well when small[182]. The variety 'Rubra' was 1.2 metres tall at Kew in late 1990 and was laden down with fruits and flowers[K]. 'Elfin King' only reaches a height of 1 metre, comes into bearing when young and fruits well[183]. It is ideal for container culture[183]. 'Croomei' is said to be a more reliable fruiting form[49]. Special Features:Attracts birds, Not North American native, Attractive flowers or blooms.
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - best surface sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed should be soaked for 5 - 6 days in warm water and then surface sown in a shady position in a greenhouse[78]. Do not allow the compost to become dry. 6 weeks cold stratification helps[134]. The seed usually germinates well in 2 - 3 months at 20°c[134]. Seedlings are prone to damp off[184], they are best transplanted to individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and should be kept well ventilated. Grow them on in a greenhouse for their first winter and then plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts[K]. Basal cuttings in late winter[200]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, November/December in a frame. Poor percentage[78]. Layering of young wood - can take 2 years[1, 200].
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
1117200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[3]Simmons. A. E. Growing Unusual Fruit.
A very readable book with information on about 100 species that can be grown in Britain (some in greenhouses) and details on how to grow and use them.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[5]Mabey. R. Food for Free.
Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[45]Polunin. O. Flowers of Greece and the Balkans.
A good pocket flora, it also lists quite a few plant uses.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[49]Arnold-Forster. Shrubs for the Milder Counties.
Trees and shrubs that grow well in Cornwall and other mild areas of Britain. Fairly good, a standard reference book.
[59]Thurston. Trees and Shrubs in Cornwall.
Trees and shrubs that succeed in Cornwall based on the authors own observations. Good but rather dated.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[89]Polunin. O. and Huxley. A. Flowers of the Mediterranean.
A very readable pocket flora that is well illustrated. Gives some information on plant uses.
[134]Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
[148]Niebuhr. A. D. Herbs of Greece.
A pleasant little book about Greek herbs.
[166]Taylor. J. The Milder Garden.
A good book on plants that you didn't know could be grown outdoors in Britain.
[182]Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos.
Contains a wide range of plants with a brief description, mainly of their ornamental value but also usually of cultivation details and varieties.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[184]Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Shrubs.
Excellent photographs and a terse description of 1900 species and cultivars.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[245]Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World.
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
[268]Stuart. M. (Editor) The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism
Excellent herbal with good concise information on over 400 herbs.

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
John McMillan Thu Jan 2 17:22:15 2003
On a recent trip to Paris, I found this fruit served stewed (or canned?) as a sweet in a chinese restaurant. They were fine. Also about 20mm across, whereas the only tree I've seen here in the north of england produced fruit more like 8mm across. Could be a different cultivar or more likely the different climate. And that's bound to affect the palatability of the fruit too.
Elizabeth H.
Dr. Shannon Thu Mar 13 07:11:04 2003
Does anyone know of using this plant for arthritis or rheumatism?
Elizabeth H.
Pedro Moreira Mon Jun 30 13:48:37 2003
I don't believe the fruits are toxic... Here in Portugal it grows in many places, and the fruit is quite edible, though usually is used to make "Aguardente de Medronho" (a type of firewater, very strong and aromatic) and also jams.

What happens is that the fruits begin to decay and ferment, and the sugar in the fruit is turned into alcohol.... you can actually get quite drunk from eating the fruits, especially if you eat the ones that have already fallen....

I don't have any recipes, though... the firewater is probably distilled from ripened fruits (or actually over-ripe fruits)... and you could probably make a nice liquer by putting the pulp of some fruits in a bottle of "normal" firewater and leave them there for some months.... That is a common way to make liquers in Portugal, at least, since normal firewater (from wine grapes) is commonly available. And the jam, I supose would follow common recipes for jam's... like cooking the pulp with sugar (and maybe adding some lemon as an anti-oxidant, or something....)

I'll try to look into that....

BTW: Portuguese common name: "Medronheiro", the fruit is called "Medronho" (sounds like spanish Medroño)

Elizabeth H.
K. GOKSU Tue Sep 23 08:51:11 2003
I live in Turkey and we have some strawberry trees in our garden, but we don't know any jam recipe about the fruit of this tree. I appreciate if anybody can send me interesting jam recipes or web sites include these recipes.

PC: If the jam is delicious, I promise to send a jar of jam to owner of the recipe.

Elizabeth H.
Boris Tue Feb 1 17:26:50 2005
Hi to all! omg omg... What a mess we got around here... This fruit is know as "Medronho" in Portuguese. Its a tipicall fruit of the south of Portugal. Everybody got Stomach problems, beacause when its ok for eating it's very sweet, juicy and produces itself Alchool as a process of maturation. So if you eat too much you will got DRUNK! That's why people(animals) gets dizzy and with stomachal problems. Avoid eating it like normal fruit and specially avoid children eat it. Hope you understood all the message. In chinese restaurant you have eaten Lichyas, a fruit typical chinese that isn't nothing to the normal and usual Strawberry tree fruit. Any doubt about it, say! P.s.- Usuall to do liqueur in Portugal with the fruits, but not for newbies, since it's easy to get about 80% Alchool in home maid liqueur!
Elizabeth H.
Norm Nelson Fri Oct 22 22:03:52 2004
I live in Sunnyvale,CA USA and have a neighbors tree overhanging my fence. I like to explain to my friends that the Strawberry Tree fruit has the sweetness of kiwi fruit and the consistancey of Sycamore seeds.

As for sampling color alone in not a goood indicator of how sweet the fruit will be. I have tasted some that were fully red and tasted bland and others not fully red that were "out of this world". Likewise I've tasted not fully red thar are not ripe and fully red that are woth picking through a hundred just to get that one.

You must be able to separate texture from taste to enjoy this fruit. Some fruits contain fiber. This one contains gravel.

Elizabeth H.
Rich Wed Nov 9 2005
Normal strabrries are in the genus Fragria

Fragaria List of plants in Genus.

Elizabeth H.
Carol Mon Jul 10 2006
Can you please tell me where in Ireland this plant can be found? Carol
Elizabeth H.
BEV SPOONER Mon Dec 18 2006
HI I HAD A VERY NICE ARBUTUS UNEDO AT MY LAST HOUSE IN BENFEET IN ESSEX THE SOIL WAS CLAY AND SOUTH FACEING IT WAS ABOUT 15 FEET WIDE AND 15 FEET HIGH THE HOUSE WAS BUILT IN THE 1930S BY THE SIZE OF THE TRUNK IT LOOKED VERY OLD. AND WAS STUNNING IN FLOWER AND FRUIT. BUT I NEVER TRIED TO EAT THEM. BUT THE BIRDS LOVE THEM. I WOULD TELL ANY ONE TO PLANT THIS TREE IT IS LOVELY . S
Elizabeth H.
Fri Feb 9 2007
Fruit is just fine to eat; in response to the poster from the northwest, inquiring about it's invasive potential, no worries: not invasive at all, and being closely related to the madrone (arbutus menszii), has a local botanical precedent.
Elizabeth H.
Patricia Fri Oct 27 2006
Hi What about getting the seeds? I had contact with many of them in Continental Portugal, but now I'm looking to get a good amount of seeds to grow it in Azores Islands in a botanical centre. Can we get a way to have a trading seeds system here? Thanks so much for this and all the info in the website. By the way: came around looking for info on Tagetes minuta, that seems interesting as a natural herb and fungicide. See you soon
Elizabeth H.
bash Fri Nov 3 2006
This plant is mentioned in CS Forester's novel about the Peninsular Campaign during the Napoleonic Wars as growing in ravines and valleys in the hills along the river Tagus near Lisbon.
Elizabeth H.
karen Fri Mar 9 2007
would a tree climbing snake be harmed by the arbutus tree? its a beautiful tree and would compliament a terrarium. Used as a climbing log. There are certain types of trees that are considered poisionus and not recomended. what of the arbutus tree?
Elizabeth H.
Ogedengbe Oluwatobi Stephen Thu Jul 5 2007
Need to get more information on jam processing,preservation,deterioration,utilization.
Elizabeth H.
Mary Tue Oct 9 2007
Do you know what the mature caliper of the tree could be expected to be?
Elizabeth H.
Jeannette Mon Oct 22 2007
Does anyone know of the suitability of planting Arbutus unedo in the northeastern United States, USDA planting zone 6b? I live outside Philadelphia, PA, saw this tree in Portland, Oregon, and fell in love! We have clay soil, slightly acid, and an average minimum winter temperature of 0ºF to -10ºF.
Elizabeth H.
Kaylene Keck Fri Nov 2 2007
Arbutus unedo Does anyone have a recipe for the jam or preserves?
Elizabeth H.
Rebecca Waterhouse Tue Dec 4 2007
I am going to college in California, and we have these bushes all over our campus. I always enjoyed their lovely red and yellow fruit. When I read that they were edible, I started eating them, and found them to be pretty good. They are seedy, but not bad. I, too, have had no luck in finding a recipe for their use, so I made one up. I used the general guidelines for making jam: cook fruit, mash, add sugar, cook some more, done. I ended up with a jam that was seedy, but very good. I'm not sure the fruits have quite enough pectin in them naturally to jell, but what I got has a thick jam-like consistency, with a beautiful orangey-red color. It would be very good over ice cream. Here's the recipe: 4 cups ripe strawberry tree fruit Juice of one lemon 1 cup sugar Cook the fruit down with the lemon juice first, and mash it to an even consistency. Then add the sugar, cook about 5-10 minutes longer, and remove from heat. I would recommend straining it if possible, to get rid of some of the seeds, but being a poor college student I don't have a strainer. I hope this helps! Try it, and let me know what you think.
Elizabeth H.
Judy Hill Wed Jun 25 2008
I recently bought an Arbutus unedo and have it in a pot, against a wall, but not in the sun. The inner leaves have started to go yellow and drop off. HELP!
Elizabeth H.
david n Thu Sep 25 2008
When I had an Arbutus unnedo I found some of what looked like ripe red friut were quite tasty while some were bland and dryish, gritty. The tastly ones had an additional orange color/"glow" in the skin, the bland ones didn't, I think they were past full ripeness, dried up. Perhaps this explains the very mixed reputation regarding flavor.
Leneah F.
Mar 23 2014 12:00AM
It sounds like strawberry tree is much like black berries when it comes to flavor. When I was looking up starting blackberries from seed I found that it was not recommended since each plant has it's own level of sweetness and flavor. So you could end up with a plant that had bland fruit that wasn't very sweet.
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