Strawberry Tree
Arbutus unedo
Caithne
Native (Evergreen) flowering September to October

Arbutus is a small evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean coast of Europe, Brittany and Ireland. It is found rarely in Cork and Kerry, and by Lough Gill in Sligo, but its Irish stronghold is around Killarney in Co. Kerry.

During the Middle Ages in Ireland it is said to have been a popular tree with charcoal burners and may have been exterminated from many areas with woodland clearance, especially in the west. This is one of the few plants found in Ireland but not in Britain. Why it is not in Britain is one of our great botanical mysteries.

It is generally found on woodland margins and lake shores where most specimens are probably extremely ancient. It is also a popular garden plant usually grown as a bushy shrub. It has alternate oval leaves which are slightly toothed, five to eight centimetres long, leathery and hairless. When mature, the tree has a reddish bark that is papery and flakey. Its flowers are white and like those of lily-of-the-valley, sometimes tinged with green or pink, in drooping clusters. These are followed by red fruits that are reputed to look like strawberries but actually resemble dried-up raspberries, with considerably less taste. The fruits take a year to ripen and turn red in autumn. The species name 'unedo' implies that eating one fruit would be more than enough.