Hybrid Strawberry

arbutus x andrachnoides

This tree is one of the treasures of the Park, and can be found near the south west corner of Ladies Pond.

This hybrid is regarded as the most splendid of the eight strawberry trees that exist, and this specimen is the second highest in the country. It is easily recognised with its deep red peeling bark, lily of the valley flowers, evergreen leaves and curious habit of flowering late in the year when few other trees do.

These attractive characteristics are all inherited from either of its two parents, arbutus unedo, the common strawberry tree and a native of Killarney, and the Cyprus Strawberry tree, arbutus andrachne.

Arbutus unedo is really a Mediterranean tree. How it got to Ireland is not clear, although pollen records indicate that it has been there for 4,000 years. It produces its flowers at the same time as the strawberry-like fruits from the previous year, giving the tree a bountiful look. These unpleasant tasting fruits are made into a fearsome liqueur in Southern Europe.

Arbutus andrachne is noted for the fine red colour of its bark. Happily, this characteristic and most of the best ones from both parents are inherited in the hybrid with more gusto. The evergreen leaves are green on top and yellow-green on the underside.

The hybrid is found wild in Greece, where both of its parents occur naturally. It is known that it was also raised in Fulham in 1800, but the origin of the tree in the Park is unknown. It succumbs easily to cold north winds, and ours is well planted in its protected site at the end of the Ladies Lake.

There are other forms of this tree such as magnifica. Rather small and very expensive, it can be bought from Hillier’s Nursery. Once planted, it grows quickly.

copied from an article by Tom Maxwell in Review 29, 1995.