Herb: Strawberry Tree
Latin name: Arbutus unedo
Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)
Medicinal use of Strawberry Tree:The strawberry tree is little used in herbalism, though it does deserve modern investigation. All parts of the plant contain ethyl gallate, a substance that possesses strong antibiotic activity against the Mycobacterium bacteria. The leaves, bark and root are astringent and diuretic. They are also a renal antiseptic and so are of use in the treatment of affections of the urinary system such as cystitis and urethritis. Their astringent action makes them of use in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery and, like many other astringent plants, a gargle can be made for treating sore and irritated throats. The leaves are gathered in the summer and dried for later use. The flowers are weakly diaphoretic.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Woodland, scrub and rocky hillsides, often on limestone and sandstone.
Edible parts of Strawberry Tree:Fruit - raw or cooked. Sweet but insipid. The Latin name "unedo" means "I eat one (only)" and suggests that the fruit is not very palatable, though another report says that the fruit is so delicious that a person only needs to eat one. It does have a somewhat gritty skin, but the fruit itself has the texture of a lush tropical fruit and has a delicate pleasant flavour. For those people with sensitive taste buds, this is a fruit that can be enjoyed when eaten in moderate quantities. The fruit contains about 20% sugars and can be used to make delicious and nourishing jams and preserves. It is ripe in November/December and is about 15mm in diameter. When fully ripe it falls from the tree and so it is advisable to grow the plant in short grass in order to cushion the fall of the fruit.
Other uses of the herb:Tannin is obtained from the leaves, bark and fruit. The bark contains 45% tannin. Wood - used for turning, Greek flutes etc. It makes a good charcoal.
Propagation of Strawberry Tree:Seed - best surface sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed should be soaked for 5 - 6 days in warm water and then surface sown in a shady position in a greenhouse. Do not allow the compost to become dry. 6 weeks cold stratification helps. The seed usually germinates well in 2 - 3 months at 20°C. Seedlings are prone to damp off, they are best transplanted to individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and should be kept well ventilated. Grow them on in a greenhouse for their first winter and then plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Basal cuttings in late winter. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, November/December in a frame. Poor percentage. Layering of young wood - can take 2 years.
Cultivation of the herb:Woodland, scrub and rocky hillsides, often on limestone and sandstone.
Known hazards of Arbutus unedo:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.