November: A little tree for all Seasons
Common Name: Strawberry Tree, Pacific Madrone
Botanical Name: Arbutus unedo
Plant Type: broadleaf evergreen
Mature Size: 10-20 ft tall and wide
Origin: Southern Europe, Mediterranean
Hardiness Zone: 7 to 9
Foliage: 4 inch long, deep green, simple, leathery, alternate, pinnate venation, serrated
Flowers: October to December, clusters of hanging fragrant, white bells with pink tinge
Fruit: ¾ inch green fruit matures to yellow then red, size and colour of strawberries when ripe
Stems: often multi-stemmed with reddish peeling bark on mature branches
Exposure: full sun best
Soil: prefers dry soils, good drainage essential, avoid rich, organic soils
Uses: specimen, accent, wildlife, woodland garden, shrub border, informal hedge, small gardens, courtyards, containers
Propagation: softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings
Pruning: winter, rarely needed as it is a well-shaped, compact plant
Problems: caterpillar, scales, whitefly, root rot prevalent in wet soils
Comments: Known for its attractive bark, a nice round canopy that bears green, yellow and red strawberry-like fruit and all at the same time. Can be grown as a small tree or large shrub especially the dwarf varieties. Suitable for small urban gardens. Arbutus grown in containers are not as hardy as those in the ground especially so winter protection is required.
This drought tolerant, waterwise plant requires good drainage and is intolerant of soggy soil.
Although the fruit is edible, it tastes bland, which explains its botanical name. It’s a combination of unum meaning ‘one’ and ‘edo’, which translates to “I eat one”.