The Irish Strawberry Tree

Comes from Spain

Every plant has story to tell, one of the most amazing stories comes from the Irish Strawberry tree. Arbutus unedo is an evergreen tree that grows near our farm stay The first surprise it presents that it is member of the heather family. Heathers are associated with small bush plants, yet this member of the family can grow to 10 meters in height. It produces small strawberry like fruit in autumn. The plant is covered in fruit, but the Latin name means one fruit. The next surprise, eat one fruit and it is that acidic you will probably not eat a second one. Even so the fruit is used in jam setting.

The tree comes from the Spanish Mediterranean coastline, but also grows around the shores of Killarney, hence the Irish name for the plant

But how did it get from Spain to Ireland? This has puzzled experts for many years.

One theory is that the Habsburg Spanish Armada of 130 ships in 1588 left Lisbon and travelled around the west coast of Ireland. One boat crashed near the coast of Cork. On that boat were Andalusian horses that were released and evolved into Connemara Ponies and Strawberry tree which established a small colony in the west of Ireland and hence got the name Irish Strawberry tree.

By John Stanley

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