25 responses to “Arbutus unedo f. rubra”

  1. Beverley

    Arbutus unedo – Z7, RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths

  2. Matt

    This is a wonderful and rewarding plant to grow and looks clean and shapely all year. The bright red fruits provide nice contrast to the evergreen leaves. The bell-shaped flowers, though not showy, are attractive. If the normal form is too large for your garden, a good choice is A. unedo “compacta”, which only grows to about 4-5 feet in height- I’ve got one of these and it lends a Mediterranean feel to my front landscaping, where I have planted drought-tolerant plants.

  3. Matt

    Just a word about the scientific name of this plant, for those who have requested meanings. The origin of the term “arbutus” is somewhat unclear, but it appears to be the ancient latin name for this species. According to the Oregon State University Department of Horticulture, “unedo” comes from the Latin “unum edo” meaning “I eat one,” perhaps implying that the granular fruits are unpalatable. Indeed, from refereneces that I have seen, this seems to be pretty much the case, though I did find one reference to a preserves being made from them. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a native relative to the Mediterranean Strawberry Tree, the Madrone (Arbutus menziesii).

  4. Ron B

    Zone 7 is perhaps a bit optimistic, hard winters sometimes burn it here in Seattle area (Zone 8). It wouldn’t persist long on the west slope of the Cascade Mountains, which the USDA map has in Zone 7 (all the way to the crest).
    Prone to what appears to be same spotting and blackening that afflicts Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, likewise probably needs open exposure and open soil texture to give its best. 4-5ft would be a true dwarf like A. unedo ‘Elfin King’. Plants sold here as A. unedo ‘Compacta’ grow much larger, may be a seed strain or mixed up, as differing floral and foliage characteristics can be seen right in the same block at a nursery. So, even if there is/was a true dwarf on the market under A. unedo ‘Compacta’ chances seem high plants purchased under that name will not fit the bill.

  5. Matt

    You may be right about a tag mix-up at a nursery-it does happen a lot. I bought this from a nursery I know and trust. All I can say is I have had in the ground for two years and it has been growing very slowly (as I expected it to), but it looks healthy. I have tried to give it optimum growing conditions- southern exposure, good-draining soil, pleny of room for air on the leaves. As far as hardiness, I live in Battle Ground, WA which is “officially” in zone 8, but really is probably more a transition between zone 7 and 8. We’re usually a bit cooler than nearby Portland and Vancouver. We have some very hard frosts here- including some all this week with morning lows in the mid-20s, and it doesn’t appear to phase my plant.

  6. Dorothy Hofs

    We “lost”our strawberry tree last winter @-12 with more than several inches of snow. Not sure if it was the cold temperature or the unusal (for here) presence of deep snow for more than 10 days. I’ve lost the tag, but it was in the 4-5 foot range after 7 years growth. I loved the “fruit” in the winter, for the bright color.

  7. Michael F

    On the Irish distribution, over here it is pretty universally accepted that it is a genuine native in Ireland (no human assistance), and that it survived the glaciation on land that is now below sea level off the west coast of Ireland (the sea level having risen about 200m since the height of the glaciation). It isn’t confined to southwest Ireland, there’s also a native locality in Galway (toward the northwest of Ireland).
    It is thought that a few other trees also survived the glaciation there, notably Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) of which there is a genetically distinct population in westernmost Scotland (Loch Maree / Shieldaig area); unfortunately the Irish native populations of Scots Pine became extinct through overcutting by about 1600-1700, so there’s none left to analyse to see if they fit in with that. Other Scots Pines in central and eastern Scotland are genetically closer to Swedish trees.
    “unedo” – I’ve eaten rather more than one! They’re perfectly edible, they just don’t have any worthwhile flavour, and the gritty skin isn’t too nice in the mouth.

  8. Michael F

    Ooops, sorry, by Lough Gill, County Sligo (not Galway). Tho’ Sligo is even further north than Galway. Lough Gill is at 54°20’N 8°25’W.

  9. Ron B

    How is the arbutus surviving the ice age climate in Ireland explained?

  10. Matt

    Regarding the edibility of the arbutus fruits, what you say sounds like a classic case of damning with faint praise to me! Thanks for the interesting information about the Irish populations- and also for Pinus sylvestris. What a shame there aren’t any left.
    Dorothy- I’m curious, where do you live? I haven’t noticed any trouble with cold weather thus far (and, of course, I hope I don’t!)

  11. aariq

    Yeah, their texture is a little weird–kindof pasty on the inside. They could potentially be good for jams though.

  12. allison

    interesting. Is it a lychee relative? looks uncannily similar. My favorite fruit by far. neat picture too.

  13. Matt

    You’re right- the fruits do look similar to lychee, but the resemblance is only superficial. Lychee is in the plant family Sapindaceae, whereas Arbutus is an ericaceous plant (belonging to the large family Ericaceae, which also includes rhododendrons, heather, vacciniums, and a host of other familiar temperate plants).

  14. Michael F

    Hi Ron,
    “How is the arbutus surviving the ice age climate in Ireland explained?”
    Look at the 200m submarine contour (i.e., the ice age coastline). There’s some large areas there that were not glaciated, and close to the ocean were probably quite mild. There was an additional oceanic island too at 53°N 13°W, 100-150 km off the then Irish west coast.

  15. Daniel Mosquin

    The probably in “probably quite mild” is the stickler. I find it hard to imagine the ecological requirements of this plant being met a few hundred kilometres away from a massive icesheet. It might be possible depending on the path of warm water from the tropics, though.

  16. Diane Whitehead

    My tree was killed to the ground during a bad winter
    when even the native A. menziesii was damaged,
    but resprouted. It seldom produces fruit, but its
    midwinter flowers provide nectar for our overwintering
    Anna’s hummingbirds here in Victoria, B.C.

  17. Ron B

    Regarding edible use of Arbutus unedo, Facciola, CORNUCOPIA II (Kampong Publications) says
    “The sweet, somewhat mealy fruits are eaten raw, preserved, used in sherbets, or made into syrup, wine, aguardente, liqueurs, or a ciderlike beverage. In Portugal there is a large-fruited form grown from seeds which is sold in the markets. Source of the famous miele di corbezzelo of Sardinia, a rare chestnut-colored honey that is highly esteemed for its pungent, spicy flavor featuring overtones of peppery mint or menthol.”

  18. Nancy Field

    Speaking of palatabilty, deer seem to love eating the foliage of arbutus unedo. I had hoped that, considering the success of the native Arbutus menziesii in the Victoria (B.C.) area, the ever-hungry deer would give it a miss…no such luck!

  19. Juan

    We have a Arbutus unedo tree that has had (for ~ 3 years) a fungus on the leaves (which grow up normally but then get black spots and curl up and dry). Any suggestions how to treat fungus in this tree; the usual fungicides don’t work. Thanks.

  20. Roger Milton

    I have two strawberry trees (arbutus unedo) that
    have been for some 18 years and have done very well
    until this year and I see a lot of yellowing of the
    leaves on one of them! Do I need to worry about losing this tree??

  21. Denis

    Arbutus menziesii has been mentioned several times the comments, which brings up a question. Is there evidence of hybridization? A. unedo is grown frequently as a landscaping plant. The grounds of one public school in Tigard or Tualatin, Oregon has quite a few growing along the parking lot.
    I wonder also if they have the ability to serve as a root stock for A. menziesii, since our native Arbutus is desirable but difficult to transplant.

  22. Francis

    Thanks very helpful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Jon Gorton

    Thanks for the interesting posts. We have one in our front garden near the coast in Perth Western Australia. I have been picking 10-15 berrys from the tree, or collecting from the ground beneath every day for the last few weeks. Sweet almost peach like in flavour but quite gritty. I don’t know the age of our tree as it was here when we bought the house but it is about 3-4 metres tall and the canopy(?)about 6 metres in diameter. Feel free to contact me if you want more info. jon.gorton@bigpond.com

  24. mickey

    After living in our new house for about 2 years now I finally took the time to figure out what the three trees in our back yard were. Arbutus Unedo for sure. I trimmed the trees way bakc last fall and now the fruit is coming like crazy. Not exactly sure the best way to prepare it, but the taste is sweet and a gritty and overall pleasent. Any preparation ideas?

  25. dannybananas

    I’ve been eating this fruit raw for quite a while. There are several of these trees lining the walk-way in front of a building at work. I find that if you gently roll them on a cloth, like denim or some other cotton, a lot of the ‘grittiness’ from the skin is removed. The flavor is mild, with hints of citrus and plum.
    If I were of a mind to prepare them I’d probably try making simple preserves out of them, or maybe a sorbet, wash and freeze the whole fruits, then into the food processor or blender with some simple syrup. Yeah, and drizzle that with juice from one of my neighbors pomegranates… this will work well.

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