by: Alfredo Chiri
STRAWBERRY TREE - Arbutus unedo - Ericaceae
Donated by: CRFG/Clarence Barker and planted in 1980 (r.f.-09)
Common names: Strawberry tree, Madroño, Albocera, Albedro, Ichigoki, Ervedro, Medronheiro.
The name Arbutus unedo derives from the Latin "arbor" that means "small tree" and "unus" "edo," that means "one" "alone". The name was given to remind you that you should "eat only one fruit," because it contains alcohol and gives you headaches.
The strawberry tree is a small tree reaching 15 feet in height. The trunk bark is grayish red, becoming redder as the tree becomes older. The bark is very thin with longitudinal fissures, which in time separate from the trunk. The top of the tree is round with thick branches having the same characteristics as the trunk bark. The leaves are simple, alternate, and remain in the tree during the year.
The strawberry tree produces masses of white, yellowish flowers at the ends of the branches. Since the fruit takes 12 months to ripen, the tree carries both mature fruit and flowers at the same time, making the tree incredibly beautiful.
The fruit varies in size, though it averages about 1 inch in diameter, is red in color and from the distance looks like strawberries. Even though thefruit resembles a strawberry, the taste is sweet but insipid. The skin is somewhat rough, but when ripe, the fruit itself has the texture of a lush tropical fruit and has pleasant flavor. The strawberry tree seems to be indifferent to the type of soil, but it seems to have a preference for acid soils. The tree tolerates most soils but prefers well drained soils. The tree will grow in sun or part shade and should be fertilized in spring. Pruning should be to thin with emphasis to show the beauty of the twisted branches and the reddish brown bark.
The strawberry tree is easily propagated from seeds. Seeds germinate well in the middle or late spring. The seedlings are rather small and slow growing. They are prone to damp off, and so they must be kept in well ventilated, lightly shaded areas. Transplant them as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them for at least the first winter under a light shade. Plant the seedlings in their permanent positions when they are 12 inches tall.
It is possible to propagate the tree from cuttings. Use mature, 12 inches, scions from current season growth. They are a bit slow to root and you get a poor percentage take. If there are some branches low enough, it is possible to produce plants from layering but it can take up to 2 years to produce roots.