Trees

Canary strawberry tree (Arbutus canariensis)

The Arbutus canariensis or Canarian strawberry tree as it is known, is a shrub belonging to the Ericaceae family. It is a unique and attractive species not very common, endemic to the Canary Islands and is protected by the authorities of the islands. With beautiful flowers that go from a greenish white to pinkish tones, orange fruits and a rough stem.

This is endemic to the Canary Islands, it can be seen wild in the laurel forests and pine forests in the cloud belt and in certain depressions in the islands of Tenerife, La Palma, Gomera, Hierro and Gran Canaria.

characteristics

It is a species that in suitable conditions can reach seven meters in height. Its bark is smooth chestnut, of a color that goes from red to pink depending on the season, whose exfoliation in broad bands occurs in late spring. Young plants show a soft green bark that darkens in the sun’s rays.

Its evergreen leaves are elongated and lanceolate, dark green on the upper side and light green on the lower side. The clusters of small flowers of this shrub bloom between summer and fall, have a flared appearance and have a white and green crown with pink hues.

Its berries are large fleshy fruits suitable for consumption, they have a spherical shape with a diameter of approximately 3 cm, orange or yellow tones, slightly mealy in texture and have a particular flavor that is not at all like strawberries. An unequivocal sign that its fruits are ripe is when they begin to fall.

Planting and caring for the Arbutus canariensis

The seeds of the Canarian strawberry tree must be ripe to be planted. Once they are ready, the seeds are soaked in warm water for approximately 5 to 6 days, then preferably in the shade.

The organic compost used in its planting must be kept moist. Germination takes between 2 and 3 months. Once they reach a size that is sufficient for handling, the Arbutus canariensis seedlings are transplanted into individual containers in a partially shaded place, making sure to keep them well ventilated. This species is prone to getting wet.

Its sowing should be done in autumn or spring, always avoiding periods of frost. The Canarian strawberry tree is quite resistant to climatic variations, so it can tolerate temperatures of up to – 10º C. It develops better in soils with good drainage and rich in nutrients, the surface of the soil must be dry; The conditions of acidity, alkalinity or neutrality of the soil used do not matter. This plant, due to its vigor, also tolerates the dry season.

It requires moisture in the summer, however, excess water should be avoided as well. Despite their resistance, young plants must be protected from the cold, while adults do not need it; In addition, they are also wind resistant. Flowering occurs from late summer to early fall.

Applications

Due to the beauty of its bell-shaped flowers, it is used to beautify gardens. It is also used as a resource for soil reforestation.  Its wood is used in some cases in cabinetmaking work, without forgetting that it is a protected species.

The fruit has a fairly juicy pulp, which is used in the preparation of sweets such as jam. They can be eaten natural or cooked. Due to its high content of natural alcohols, in some regions of the archipelago it is used to make liquors. Therefore, consuming them in an exaggerated way can make people intoxicated, and even cause diarrhea.

They also serve as food for the animals of the island territory. It is also attributed medicinal properties, which is why some use them to combat diarrhea, inflammations and germs. Its laminae and bark are used to treat various conditions of the urinary tract.

Plagues and diseases

Although it is a plant resistant to most common plant diseases, some types of fungi such as anthracnose or the genus Phytophthora, can cause serious damage.

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