PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)

We frequently get requests for evergreen trees with leaves, as opposed to evergreen conifers like pine, cedar, and fir. Options are limited but here’s one that offers something interesting year-round. We find the misleading common name kinda annoying. It doesn’t resemble strawberries in any way, except the fruit is red. Oh well, whatcha gonna do?

Arbutus unedo is distantly related to our local Madrona tree (Arbutus menziesii). The flowers and fruits are very similar. Arbutus unedo only gets 10-15 feet tall and almost as wide. It has interestingly twisted, sculptural branches with shaggy reddish brown bark, and dark evergreen tapered oval leaves.

It is in flower at the same time its berries ripen in late autumn (Nov.-Dec.). Dangling clusters of small white & pink bell-shaped flowers drape the tree. Hummingbirds can’t believe their good fortune and feed on it all day every day. Meanwhile, the berries which have been developing all year from last year’s blooms are ripening, turning from green to gold to orange, and finally brilliant red. It looks like it has been decorated for a holiday.

Birds snack on the ripe fruit, and any that fall will not last long. The blooms carry on, setting their fruit which will take another full year to ripen and continue the cycle. Arbutus unedo wants to be bushy in form. We like to limb them up so they look more tree-like and you can appreciate the sculptural interior branching.