This beautiful and unusual tree can be found wild in the British Isles only in the west of Ireland, It grows plentifully around Killarney and more locally as far north as Lough Gill in County Sligo. Its main home is the Mediterranean region, and it is an evergreen adapted to a climate of mild wet winters and hot dry summers. Its dark green leathery leaves, with their waxy surface, enable it to restrict water loss. They are simple in design, shaped like a long oval with toothed edges, and are borne alternately on hairy twigs.
Strawberry tree is more likely to form a low bush than a tall tree with a single clear stem, though it can reach a height of I2m, Its bark is reddish brown, and peels away gradually in flakes; it becomes pale grey, except where it cracks open. Strawberry tree belongs to the Heath family, or Ericaceae, and its whole aspect resembles that of a very large and woody heath plant. The flowers are bell-shaped, with five petals united into a waxy white cup. having five small green sepals at its base. They are white in colour, and fragrant scented like lilies-of-the-valley. Within the cup there are ten stamens and an ovary made up of five united carpels.
These flowers open in autumn, and after they have been pollinated, and the petals have fallen away, the ovary develops into a remarkable round fruit that is rather like a strawberry. It takes a whole year to ripen through white to red, and therefore both flowers and fruit can be seen at the same time on the tree. The soft figure is
Strawberry tree, an evergreen, opens its flowers, and also ripens its fruit in October. (Xi).
pulp of the fruit attracts birds, but people Snd it unpalatable, and the specific name rmedo means 'I eat one - only.' At the heart of the fruit there are many small hard seeds, which are spread by the birds that eat the berries.
Strawberry tree is frequendy planted for ornament in the south and west of England, and in coastal districts of Ireland, Scodand and Wales. It is not hardy elsewhere. The wood is hard and tough, but is too small in size for most purposes; its only recorded use is in the carving of souvenirs for tourists who visit Killarney. There are two Irish names for this fascinating tree, caithne and suglair.
Was this article helpful?