Arbutus unedo (Irish Strawberry tree)
Species: A. unedo
Binomial name: Arbutus unedo
Common name: Strawberry tree, Killarney strawberry tree, Irish strawberry tree, Cane apple
Arbutus unedo is a small evergreen tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean region and Western Europe north to western France and Ireland.
Arbutus unedo grows to 5–10 m tall, rarely up to 15 m, with a trunk diameter of up to 80 cm. The leaves are dark green and glossy, 5–10 cm long and 2–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin.
The hermaphrodite flowers are white (rarely pale pink), bell-shaped, 4–6 mm diameter, produced panicles of 10–30 together in autumn. They are pollinated by bees.
The fruit is a red berry, 1–2 cm diameter, with a rough surface. It matures in about 12 months, in autumn, at the same time as the next flowering. When fully ripe the fruit is edible and can be quite sweet, although has a somewhat doughy texture, mixed with some grit cells.
Arbutus unedo is now becoming an environmental weed problem in the Canterbury area. This is because of its rapid growth and that it produses a large number of seeds that are widely dispersed by birds.
In Australia this species has escaped cultivation as a garden ornamental, It prefers damp situations and is particularly invasive in sclerophyll forests and urban bushland.
The ripe edible fruit.
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