Arbutus unedo - Strawberry Tree - (Caithne)
Thought to be native to the south-west of Ireland, and sometimes called the Killarney strawberry tree or caithne, Arbutus unedo is also found in Mediterranean countries. It is mainly found in the wild in Co. Kerry especially in the Killarney district where it forms a large part of the natural forest on the islands and shores of the lakes. It is also found near to our own nursery in unshaded parts of Glengariff Wood, Co. Cork and around Lough Gill in Co. Sligo.
A small to medium-sized, slow-growing evergreen tree or large shrub, it takes its common name from the fruit, which is rather like a strawberry to look at. Creamy-white urn-shaped flowers, lightly scented and about 4-6mm in diameter, are produced in late autumn, followed a year later by berries about ½”/1.5cm across; these have a rough surface and are red when ripe, edible and sweet, but unexciting. Glossy, dark green leaves with serrated edges. Bark an attractive cinnamon brown, peeling in older specimens. Useful nectar source for bees, and good for permaculture plantings. For milder areas, although older specimens are hardier.
Site: Tolerates exposure, including coastal exposure
Soil: Well-drained acid to neutral soils, including poor soils
Position: Full sun or partial shade
Season of Interest: Spring, summer, autumn, winter
Hardiness: Hardy from -10 to -15°C
Height: 16-33ft (5-10m) Spread: 16-30ft (5-10m)