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The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is an evergreen shrub or small tree in the heather family, Ericaceae, native to the Mediterranean region and western Europe north to western Francemarker and Irelandmarker. Due to its presence in South West Ireland, it is also known as Irish strawberry tree, and Killarneymarker strawberry tree (called 'Caithne' in Irish and Scots Gaelic). Despite its name, the strawberry tree does not produce strawberries.


Strawberry tree with fruit (ripe and unripe) and flowers.
The Strawberry Tree grows to tall, rarely up to , with a trunk diameter of up to . Zone: 7-10

The leaves are dark green and glossy, long and broad, with a serrated margin.

The hermaphrodite flowers are white (rarely pale pink), bell-shaped, diameter, produced panicles of 10-30 together in autumn. They are pollinated by bees.

The fruit is a red aggregate drupe diameter, sometimes called arbutus-berry, with a rough surface, maturing 12 months at the same time as the next flowering. The fruit is edible, though many people find it bland and mealy; the name 'unedo' is explained by Pliny the Elder as being derived from unum edo "I eat one", which may seem an apt response to the flavour. They mainly serve as food for birds but in some countries they are used to make jam and liqueurs (such as the Portuguesemarker medronho, a kind of strong brandy).

Cultivation and uses

Unlike most of the Ericaceae, it grows well in limy soils. It is best planted in a sheltered position due to its late flowering habit (see first paragraph). When grown as a tree rather than a multi-stemmed shrub, it is important to select one stem that becomes the main trunk, keeping any other basal sprouts pruned off. It prefers well-drained soil and only moderate amounts of water. The Strawberry Tree is naturally adapted to dry summers, though also growing well in the cool, wet summers of western Ireland. It is therefore useful for planting in areas with a dry-summer climate, and has become a very popular garden specimen in Californiamarker and the rest of the west coast of North America. It is hardy in USDAmarker Hardiness Zones 8 to 10. Pests include Scales and Thrips, and diseases include anthracnose, Phytophthora, root rot, and rust.

Synonyms include Unedo edulis Hoffm. and Arbutus vulgaris Bub.

Symbolic use

Central panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights.
The title of The Garden of Earthly Delights, a mysterious painting by Hieronymus Bosch, is a later attribution.It was listed in the inventories of the Spanish Crown as "the picture with the strawberry-tree fruits".

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