Strawberry tree is an evergreen shrub belonging to the family Ericaceae. It is also known as the ‘apple of cain’ and ‘cane apple’ tree, while it is scientifically known as Arbus unendo. The tree is native to the Mediterranean region, while it also frequents the Western Europe North to Western France and Ireland.
Size and shape
The strawberry tree can grow into a large dramatic tree or else in to small evergreen foliage with a peeling, reddish-brown bark. It rarely grows taller than 15 meters and most trees are within the 5 to 10 meter range. The trunk can grow up to a diameter of around 80 centimeters.
The leaves are sometimes described as ’leathery’ because they appear dark green and glossy. The leaves can grow up to 5 to 10 cm long and 2 – 3 cm broad with tiny teeth like appearances (serrated) present on the leaf margins. In general, the strawberry trees have oval shaped leaves.
The flowers of Arbus unendo appear white and bell-shaped, although in some instances the color could become pale pink. Each flower is around 4 to 6 mm in diameter and is produced in panicles of 10 to 30 during the autumn. Bees are the main pollinating mechanism for strawberry tree flowers of which the flowers are considered to be hermaphrodite.
The fruits are bright red in color and ripen in the fall from the flowers occurring in the previous season. The berries are edible and can grow up to 1 inch in diameter. The fruit has a rough surface and it takes around 12 months to gain full maturity.
Habitat and cultivation
When talking about the habitat of a strawberry tree, it prefers dry, open sites with rocky or sandy well-drained soils. It also prefers low to middle elevations. As described earlier, these trees usually extend through the Mediterranean basin and Asia Minor, while the population in Southwestern Ireland is known as an outlier population. However, for cultivation, its preference to limy soils should be highlighted in addition to expert advice on planting the same in a sheltered position. When growing, the plant should be moderately watered, while it is the main stem that should be selected for planting when the expected outcome is a strawberry tree rather than a shrub.
Although the tree derived a name related to ‘strawberries’, the fruit is nothing like the actual strawberry and therefore it is not much of a delight among the humans. However, the berries are consumed by the birds, although in certain parts of the world, the berries are used to prepare jams and certain types of liquor as well.