Ajuntament de Barcelona

Arbutus unedo

Hortes de Sant Bertran and Forestier's stairs

    Catalan name: 
    Cirerer d'arboç
    Spanish name: 
    Madroño
    English name: 
    Strawberry tree
    Botanical synonyms: 
    Unedo edulis, Arbutus vulgaris
    Observations: 

    According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of this plant is least concern.

    Species characteristics
    Family: 
    Ericaceae
    Origin: 
    Mediterranean area and Atlantic coast
    Habitat: 
    Garrigues and forest areas, especially oak woods
    Characteristics: 

    Perennial tree 5-15 m tall, although usually it is shorter, with short trunk, with stretch marked and red bark, and a dense rounded crown.

    The lanceolate leaves, 5-10 cm long and 5 cm wide, are alternate and have jagged margins and a short petiole. They are smooth and bright, dark green coloured on the upper side and slightly lighter on the lower side, with reddish tips of the margin teeth.

    The hermaphrodite flowers are composed of a single pot-shaped corolla with greenish white or pink petals, up to 1 cm long. They appear into hanging panicles in groups of 10-30 flowers.

    The fruit is a globose berry, 1-2 cm in diameter; its colour goes from yellow to an intense red depending on the maturation grade. The surface is composed of tiny conical grains, which give a granulated texture. Inside the fruit there are many dun seeds.

    Flowering time: 
    Autumn
    Fruiting time: 
    Autumn (next year after blossoming)
    Uses and properties: 

    Because of the presence of both flower and fruit, Strawberry Tree is widely used in gardening. It takes a whole year for the fruit to mature. Traditionally speaking, its wood is used in carving, as charcoal and as fuel, specially in blacksmithing, where it's as appreciated as that of the Holly Oak.

    Flower, bark and fruits are widely used in medicine.

    One of the most popular uses of the Strawberry Tree is cuisine, with its fruit used in liqueurs and marmalades.

    Grows slowly and its trunk is ornamental when old.

    Although it tolerates dry summers, it's sensitive to insects.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name of the strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo, consists of the Latin terms arbutus, “little tree, bush”, and unedo, coming from unus, “one”, and edo, “to eat”, “to eat only one”, with reference to the intoxicating reputation of the fruits because of their alcoholic content (they can ferment because of the long stay and maturation of the berries at the tree).

    The strawberry tree identifies, together with the bear, Madrid, in which coat of arms can be seen a bear with his front legs resting in a strawberry tree, without knowing for sure the figure origin.

    The painting The Garden of Earthly Delights (1480-1490), by Hieronymus Bosch, is also known under the name The painting of the strawberry tree.

    The strawberry tree, very used in gardening, is one of the indigenous Mediterranean forest species.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001

    THE ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY. Enciclopedia de plantas y flores. Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1996

    http://www.asturnatura.com

    http://www.rhs.org.uk