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The Strawberry-tree

UK Garden Centre - Information about the Strawberry-tree

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Family Ericaceae
Arbutus Unedo

Though the Strawberry-tree may be seen in parks and gardens, it will not be found in the woods or by the waysides in Great Britain; but in parts of Ireland it is native. Killarney, Muckross, and Bantry are stated as Irish stations, but it has also been found in the woods at Woodstock, Co. Kilkenny, in a situation where it seemed unlikely such a tree would be planted.
In Ireland it attains a maximum height of forty feet, though in England it rarely exceeds twenty or thirty feet under cultivation.
The bark is rough as scaly, tinged with red, and twisted.
The leathery leaves are more or less oval, two or three inches long, with toothed edges and hairy stalks. Although arranged alternately on the shoots, they present the appearance at a little distance of being clustered, rosette fashion, at the tips of the twigs.
The creamy-white or pinkish flowers are clustered in drooping racemes at the ends of the twigs, and are about one-third of an inch across, bell-shaped. After the fertilization of the seeds the corollas drop off, so that in the flowering season (September and October) the ground beneath will usually be found strewn with them.
The fruit is a round berry, of an orange-red hue, whose surface is completely studded with little points. As these berries do not come to maturity until about fourteen months after the flowers have dropped their corollas, both flowers and almost full-formed fruit may be seen on the tree at the same time. They are not edible until they are quite ripe, and even then they are too austere to suit everybody’s taste. In truth, we have it on the testimony of Pliny that the old Latin name Unedo, now included in the specific scientific name, was given to it because to eat one of these tree strawberries was a sufficiently extensive acquaintance for most persons.
It is perhaps unnecessary to add that, in spite of the name, there is no relationship existing between this tree and the Strawberry; not is there more than a faint superficial resemblance between the fruits of the two plants. The Strawberry belongs to the great Rose family, whilst the nearest British connections of the Arbutus are the Bilberries and Heaths.

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