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Featured Plant

Arbutus unedo


Scientific Name: Arbutus unedo

Common Names: Strawberry Tree


Plant Type: Small tree

Environment: Grows best in well-drained soil. Very drought tolerant (prefers dry summers) and well suited to California's climate.

Bloom: The strawberry tree produces masses of beautiful white flowers in November and December. Since the fruit takes 12 months to ripen, the tree carries both mature fruit and flowers at the same time.

Uses: Can be trained as a large shrub, but looks much better as a small tree. To get the best 'look', choose a leader(main stem) early and keep any other basal shoots pruned back.


  • The Ericaceae family (Heath family) is a large, consisiting of familiar plants such as Rhododendron, Erica, and Vaccinium

  • The common name 'Strawberry Tree' obviously refers to the fruits, which upon close inspection don't really resemble strawberries, but from a distance one can easily imagine how the association was made with this fruit.

  • Propagation can be accomplished by seeds, cuttings, or layering


Arbutus unedo is located in: 

Garden of Fragrance (Bed 11i),  

Redwood Grove (Bed 48a) and  

Mediterranean Garden (Bed 71).



Arbutus unedo

Arbutus unedo is a small, evergreen tree, with dangling panicles of rosy urn-shaped blossoms, often appearing simultaneously with long stemmed fruits resembling strawberries. The appearance of both flowers and fruits on the same tree make for a handsome sight in the Garden of Fragrance. The fruits have no flavor yet they are edible. They are sometimes used in preserves, explaining the name unedo, which is a compilation of the Latin word unum, meaning, “I eat one”.

The flowers are similar to some of the other members in the Heath family such as Vaccinium (huckleberry) and Arctostaphylus (manzanita). The bark of Arbutus unedo, much like the madrone tree, Arbutus menzii, becomes reddish brown and peels with age. The leaves are leathery and serrated, with red stems. A. unedo is tolerant of many soil types as long as there is good drainage and is a fairly drought resistant tree. It is a lovely offering for California gardens.

The Irish call it the Killarney strawberry tree and it grows along the coast, however, it is also native to Israel. This surprising geographical separation is the result of the Gulf Stream, whose warm waters affect coastal Ireland, Scotland and Britain, creating milder winters (which Arbutus need) and explain the presence of palm trees in the Scilly Isles.


Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor
Text by Docent Kathy McNeil
Profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler
Additional Photos by SFBG Visitor, Eric Hunt