”’Scientific Name”’: ”Arbutus unedo”
”’Also known as”’: Irish strawberry tree, cain apple, cane apple, Killarney strawberry tree.
”’Habitat”’: Woodland, scrub and rocky hillsides, often on limestone and sandstone. S. Europe and S.W. Ireland.
”’Description”’: An evergreen shrub or small tree in the family Ericaceae. ”Arbutus unedo” grows to 5–10 m tall, rarely up to 15 m, with a trunk diameter of up to 80 cm.
* ”’Bark”’ – Rough brown bark.
* ”’Buds”’ –
* ”’Leaves”’ – The leaves are dark green and glossy, 5–10 cm long and 2–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin.
* ”’Flowers”’ – The hermaphrodite flowers are white (rarely pale pink), bell-shaped, 4–6 mm diameter, produced panicles of 10–30 together in autumn. They are pollinated by bees, and have a mild sweet scent.
* ”’Fruit”’ – The fruit is a red berry, 1–2 cm diameter, with a rough surface. It matures in about 12 months, in autumn, at the same time as the next flowering. It is edible; the fruit is sweet when reddish. Seeds are often dispersed by frugivorous birds
==Pictures throughout the year==
Fruit – raw or cooked. Sweet but insipid. The Latin name ‘unedo’ means ‘I eat one (only)’ and suggests that the fruit is not very palatable, though another report says that the fruit is so delicious that a person only needs to eat one. 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. The fruit contains about 20% sugars and can be used to make delicious and nourishing jams and preserves. 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.
”Arbutus unedo’s” fruits have a high content of sugars (40%), and antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, niacin, tocopherols, and organic acids that are precursors to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (nearly 9%). They are edible fresh, but that is an uncommon consumption, especially because the mature fruit tends to bruise very easily, making transportation difficult.
They are used mostly for jam, marmalades, yogurt and alcoholic beverages, such as the Portuguese medronho, a type of strong brandy. Many regions of Albania prepare the traditional drink rakia from the fruits of the plant (mare or kocimare in Albanian), hence comes the name of the drink “raki kocimareje”. In order to reduce the high content of methanol in the drink, the spirit is distilled twice.
The strawberry tree is little used in herbalism, though it probably deserves modern investigation. All parts of the plant contain ethyl gallate, a substance that possesses strong antibiotic activity against the Mycobacterium bacteria. The leaves, bark and root are astringent and diuretic. They are also a renal antiseptic and so are of use in the treatment of affections of the urinary system such as cystitis and urethritis. 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. The leaves are gathered in the summer and dried for later use. The flowers are weakly diaphoretic.
Its Mediterranean habitat, elegant details of leaf and habit and dramatic show of fruit with flowers made ”Arbutus unedo” notable in Classical Antiquity, when Pliny thought it should not be planted where bees are kept, for the bitterness it imparts to honey.
The first signs of its importation into northern European gardens was to 16th-century England from Ireland. In 1586 a correspondent in Ireland sent plants to the Elizabethan courtiers Lord Leicester and Sir Francis Walsingham. An earlier description by Rev. William Turner (The Names of Herbes, 1548) was probably based on hearsay. The Irish association of Arbutus in English gardens is reflected in the inventory taken in 1649 of Henrietta Maria’s Wimbledon: “one very fayre tree, called the Irish arbutis standing in the midle parte of the sayd kitchin garden, very lovely to look upon” By the 18th century ”Arbutus unedo” was well known enough in English gardens for Batty Langley to make the bold and impractical suggestion that it might be used for hedges, though it “will not admit of being clipped as other evergreens are.”
In the United States, Thomas Jefferson lists the plant in his Monticello gardens in 1778.
The form ”A. unedo f. rubra” and the hybrid ”A. × andrachnoides”, have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
Central panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, described by José de Sigüenza as “The Picture of the Strawberry Tree”.
The Garden of Earthly Delights, a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, was originally listed by José de Sigüenza, in the inventory of the Spanish Crown as La Pintura del Madroño – “The Painting of the Strawberry Tree”.
The tree makes up part of the Coat of arms of Madrid (El oso y el madroño, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) of the city of Madrid, Spain. In the center of the city (Puerta del Sol) there is a statue of a bear eating the fruit of the Madroño tree. The image appears on city crests, taxi cabs, man-hole covers, and other city infrastructure. The fruit of the Madroño tree ferments on the tree if left to ripen, so some of the bears become drunk from eating the fruits.
The name of the Italian promontory Mount Conero, situated directly south of the port of Ancona on the Adriatic Sea, derives from the Greek name κόμαρος (komaròs) indicating the strawberry tree which is common on the slopes of the mountain. Mount Conero, the only coastal high point on the Adriatic sea between Trieste and the Gargano massif in the region of Apulia, assists navigators to sail across the Adriatic sea since ancient times.
Fruit is ripe in November/December.
Leaves gathered in the summer and dried for later use.
*Tree & Plant ID Course from Foundation Bushcraft – http://identificationmasterclass.com/
*Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbutus_unedo
*PFAF – https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Arbutus+unedo