Morella rubra

Douglas Justice, Curator of Collections, at UBC Botanical Garden contributed today’s BPotD entry.

On a recent trip to China with a group of westerners, we came upon these fruits, and initially assumed they were from Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree). Indeed, a number of us had seen tinned versions of these fruits labeled “arbustes,” a name that looks a lot like Arbutus, but is, of course, “shrub” in French. Complicating matters—or perhaps the origin of this confusion—is the common name Chinese strawberry tree. Why tinned fruit from China would be labeled with a French name is another matter. It’s uncanny (pardon the pun) that these two fruits should look so similar.

Morella rubra (more commonly known as Myrica rubra) is native to much of temperate and tropical Southeast Asia, where (according to the Wikipedia entry) the species has been cultivated for a couple of millennia. I can certainly see why. They are tart and delicious. There’s no mistaking the two. The large pit in red bayberry fruits takes up about two-thirds of the overall volume, while the gritty seeds in Arbutus are small and numerous. As for taste, the mushy, insipid (some people I know refer to it as “delicate”) tasting cornels produced by Arbutus unedo are no match for the meaty zing of the bayberry.

Morella rubra

24 responses to “Morella rubra”

  1. Nancy Palmer

    Is this not a lychee? Sure looks a lot like the ones I grow here in SW FL, which are outstandingly delicious.

  2. Ian C

    Not lychee, you eat the skin of this fruit and it also known as the red bayberry. It is in a few juices available in N. Amer, and there are most of a million acres planted to Myrica rubra (syn. Morella rubra) in China. When they dry it, it is often with a light brine. High in anthocyanins. Grows and thrives in mild temperate to subtropical conditions.

  3. Meg Bernstein

    Fantastic color. Ooo.

  4. Cambree

    They look like they would get to mushy for the market. I thought it was fruit from the strawberry tree too.
    I would prefer the red bayberry with a pit, sound easier to eat. I never like the tiny seeds found in the strawberry tree fruit.

  5. JanK

    Gorgeous photo!!

  6. Julie

    At first, I too thought they were lychee. This species is perfect for food artists trying to get that perfect photo of a delicious dessert….mmmmmmm! Must say I have been enjoying the recent postings – great variety and super narrative! Keep it up!

  7. phillip

    Wow…they are so beautiful and inviting…wish i could reach in and sample one…

  8. Annie Morgan

    Lovely photo, and good information – I shall look for them in the Chinese centre in Mississauga, they might have them tinned.

  9. Tammy Kennedy

    What’s the zone range that this would grow in and do you have any idea if it’s available as seed or even plants in America? I would love to grow it if it an handle zone 8a. Wondering how big the trees are, too? It looks gorgeous and sounds yummy! Thanks for your interesting posts! I enjoy it every day!

    1. Cherrie

      This is a decade old but… yang mei are currently not easily grown anywhere outside of China. The seeds lose viability after being taken out of the fruit quite quickly and the fruit does not last in transit it will rot in a couple days. It is such a delicious fruit!! Your best bet would be to get it from China and try to get it here the problem with that is they are only recently allowed to come over and the plant does not travel well also. A Chinese farmer in the bay area in California has been growing them for well over a decade now and just has his first available fruits. (They wont fruit for about 10 years) his company is called calmei and they will be selling for their second year at a small shop in San Francisco for 45$ a lb. I am going to try to get these fruits and grow from those seeds I miss this fruit so much!!!!

  10. hélène

    The french name for “arbutus unedo” is “arbouse” and the name of the tree is “arbousier”. it grows in Italy too (I have seen some tree in Capri) and his name is “corbezzolo”. You can eat this fruit only after cooking. If not cooked you can eat only one piece (the meaning of “unedo” is ” only one you can eat”.
    Excuse my bad english, please, and thank you for your beautiful pictures and interrestin coments.

  11. SoapySophia

    lychee, thought something like that too, I’ve eaten the lychee (I’m pretty sure, hard covering, juicy, fleshy inside.)
    Asian fruits are wonderful-looks and tastes!

    1. Cherrie

      Also a few people have mentioned lychee it is nothing like that the whole inside is almost like the cells of a raspberry it is a lot sweeter than lychee and a completely different flavor!! I will say I’m not a huge fan of lychee but I love yang mei!!!

  12. Moon kyu Lee

    Since they are native to southern coast of Korea, I think it would be safe to assume that it can overwinter in zone8.

  13. elizabeth a airhart

    lovely picture new to me
    i live in florida in zone 7-9
    it just might grow here -i am in
    central west coast inland
    thank you

  14. Don Fenton

    Looks good! Arbutus unedo is very variable in quality, I have tried one which was particularly good and a few which were quite ok. Most you would’nt bother with, but Pliny was possibly being a little unfair!

  15. Leo Flandriae

    I would like to cultivate these plants here in Flanders – belgium.
    How is propagation done? Seeds or cuttings? Please help or given a hint.
    Thanks a lot.

  16. hilarry

    this fruit looks very colllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!

  17. ringostar

    this friut look cool to do a siment on

  18. Kai Hui

    No, this is not Lychee. They don’t even look like Lychee to me.
    Lychee grows southern part of China, I would so, probably equivalent to zone 9 in the USA.
    Morella rubra, called Yang Mei in China, grows in east coast provinces in China, roughly zone 8 in the USA. I would say, Virginia Beach, VA to Charleston, SC would be perfect for Ynag Mei.
    Lychee is very juicy and tasty, but sometimes I find they are a little bit too sweat for me.
    Yang Mei, Morella rubra, are very yummy to my taste.

    1. Cherrie

      Yes a person on here who has had yang mei! I miss them and mangosteen so much!!

  19. karen

    My favourite..Eaten in Shanghai more than a decade ago, miss tremendously the taste of this wonderful delicate fruit.
    Wonder if it can be grown in the hot humid tropical countries like South East Asia?

  20. Joel Adams

    I have trying and searching for some way to obtain this plant here in San Diego for years. Does anyone know how I can buy a small tree or seed to start my own tree please? (And TyTy Nursery in Georgia will not work at all)

  21. Charles Lucero

    This is not Arbutus, it is Myrica rubra. Calmei grows it commercially in California.

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