Arbutus unedo · strawberry tree · Mediterranean, Ireland
Arbutus ‘Marina’ · Marina strawberry tree · Hybrid
Arbutus unedo is a pleasant, small shrubby tree on which both red and yellow edible strawberries hang at the same time in fall. Three 12-foot trees are in the circle at Galvez and Escondido malls, and many more are along the east wall of Sweet Hall. The cycle path at the east end of Esplanada Way is lined with strawberry trees clipped as a hedge. The overripe berries that follow the strings of rose-colored bells have the best flavor when they are turning dark crimson. Of course there are numerous small seeds; the only reasonable way to cope is to swallow fast.
The tree was well known in Southern Europe from ancient times for its edible fruit; indeed Lucretius (d. 168 BC), telling the way things were in the beginning, states that girls could be bought with arbutus berries. “And Venus joined the bodies of lovers in the woods; a girl shared a man’s appetite, or perhaps succumbed to his insistence, or took a bribe: acorns, arbutus berries, or choice pears.” (De Rerum Natura, Book V, lines 962–966). The names arbutus and unedo were both used by the Romans. Madroño, the Spanish name of A. unedo, was also applied to California’s A. menziesii.
A. ‘Marina’ (a hybrid of uncertain parentage distributed by Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation) strongly resembles A. unedo but has larger leaves, rosy pink flowers, and peeling bark revealing smooth, reddish new bark similar to A. menziesii. A fine specimen is in the raised planter on the right of the western entrance to Meyer Green and another, especially beautiful, is on Lomita Drive at the entrance to the parking lot adjacent to Harmony House. Other specimens are on Lomita Mall east of the Gordon and Betty Moore Materials Research Building and one is to the left of the Santa Teresa Street entrance to the Humanities Center. There are three great ones west of the Center for Educational Research (CERAS).
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. John Rawlings subsequently added a few notes on A. ‘Marina’.