Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) - leaves and fruit - September 2017
This mature Strawberry tree can be found in the church grounds of St Michael & All Angels in Alpington, Exeter, UK. === The strawberry tree is a beautiful small evergreen tree or shrub that can occasionally reach 9 metres tall and 8 metres wide, though it is usually rather smaller. There are several named forms and some of these are no more than 2 - 3 metres tall. A very easily grown and trouble-free plant, it does best in a nutrient-rich well-drained moisture-retentive soil in sun or semi-shade. It also grows well in heavy clay soils and in dry soils. Most species in this genus require a lime-free soil but this species is fairly lime tolerant. Especially when young, it prefers a fairly sheltered position and dislikes cold drying winds. It is, however, surprisingly tolerant of strong winds if they are not from the cold northerly and easterly quarters and can succeed in fairly exposed positions near the coast. This is a very good tree to grow in towns because it tolerates industrial pollution. The plant is hardy in most parts of Britain and has withstood temperatures down to at least -16°c without injury when grown in suitable conditions, though young plants would usually be killed at temperatures as low as this. Because they resent root disturbance, it is best to plant them out into their final positions as soon as possible. It is probably, therefore, a good idea to give them some protection from the cold for their first winter or two outdoors if the weather is very cold. The strawberry tree produces masses of beautiful white flowers in November and December. Since the fruit takes 12 months to ripen, the tree carries both mature fruit and flowers at the same time and is then incredibly beautiful. This is a superb plant to grow as a specimen in a lawn, and it also grows very well on the sunny edges of a woodland garden. === Other common names: strawberry tree cane apple Dalmatian strawberry Killarney strawberry tree === 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 flowers are pollinated by bees, and the resulting honey is bitter tasting but still prelibate. Arbutus unedo's leaves have been employed in traditional and folk medicine in the form of a decoction having the following properties: astringent, diuretic, urinary anti-septic, antiseptic, intoxicant, rheumatism, tonic, and more recently, in the therapy of hypertension and diabetes. The leaves are reported to have a high concentration of flavonol antioxidants, especially quercitin, best extracted with a decoction, and together with the fruits are a source of antioxidants. The leaves also have anti-inflammatory properties. The wood is quite hard and well suited for a various uses such as fire wood and to make pipes. Since it doesn't usually grow straight, it is not well suited for construction or similar uses. The tree is also grown as an ornamental plant, because of the nice looking and smelling of the flowers and the fruit, the interesting presence at the same time of fruits and flowers on the plant and because it is an evergreen. It is used as a single or multi-trunked ornamental tree, and as a specimen or hedge shrub in gardens and public landscapes.
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