The Strawberry Tree is an unusual tree; it flowers and fruits at the same time during the winter, prefers to grow on rocky outcrops, and is sensitive to frost. Although this tree was long considered a native species, its distribution in Ireland seems unusual, too. With the support of genetic studies and historical records, Nick Scott and Micheline Sheehy Skeffington explore the history of the Strawberry Tree to speculate how this species may have reached Ireland.
The Strawberry Tree Arbutus unedo must be the most unusual tree or shrub considered native to Britain or Ireland. John Parkinson, who, in his herbal of 1640, first announced that ‘it hath been of late days found in the West part of Ireland, of reasonable bigge size for a tree’, also described how ‘it flowreth not only in Iuly… but at other times of the yeare also, and the fruite scarse ripeneth in a whole yeare, for I have seen a fresh branch, that was brought me with fresh sprung flowers and ripe fruite thereon likewise, for that it is usually seen with flowers and fruite at once.’ No other native woody species does this.