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16 October 2014
Gardener's Corner

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Autumn 2003
 
Terrific Trees

Arbutus unedoArbutus unedo
(Strawberry tree)

Here’s a species with a look all of its own. It’s adored by many and definitely calls for a closer look. The Woodland Trust suggests saying goodbye to winter - and making a bit of a show at the same time - with the addition of Arbutus unedo, better known as the strawberry tree.

This small, evergreen tree is native to both south-west Ireland (especially near Killarney) and the Mediterranean region. While often found growing fruitswild in the south of Ireland, this species would be an impressive addition to any garden. Its dark green, glossy leaves and reddish, papery bark are quite something in their own right. However, the tree is without doubt at its finest in autumn, showing off pretty, white, dropping clusters of flowers. The pale flowers, which are sometimes tinged with pink or green, are a contrast to autumn’s brightly coloured strawberry-like fruit.

The ‘strawberries’ (or round, red fruit resembling strawberries) actually take a year to ripen. They are quite tough and, although edible, are apparently not particularly tasty. Indeed the name ‘unedo’ implies that after one taste, you are Flowersunlikely to repeat the experience! Perhaps this is Nature’s intention. The fruit provides a welcome source of food for our birds, including thrushes and blackbirds, during autumn and early winter.

Plant your strawberry tree in a well-drained site, preferably in full sun and with shelter from cold winds. This is a wonderfully simple way to do your bit for wildlife, while brightening up your garden. The colourful bark, leaves, flowers and fruit will set this one apart from its perhaps more modest neighbours.

Photos: WTPL/Peter Paice from Belfast

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