Arbutus unede, Strawberry Tree

Growing in the wilds is the beautiful evergreen shrub, known as the Arbutus, or Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unede).

The tree is common in the Mediterranean region and the fruit was known to the ancients. History notes that it was not held in much esteem. The fruits are considered so unpalatable that no one who tastes them for the first time is tempted to repeat the experience.

However, there is some historical evidence that at one time the fruit was part of the diet of the ancients. Horace praises the tree for its shade and Ovid for its loads of “blushing fruit”. Virgil, on the other hand, recommends the young shoots as winter food for goats and for basket work.

Gerard speaks of Arbutus in his time as growing in ‘some few gardens, and says the following.

“The fruit being ripe is of a gallant red color, in taste somewhat harsh, and in a manner without any relish, of which thrushes and blackbirds do feed in winter .”


Arbutus as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

The medicinal parts are the fresh or dried leaves. The most common use of arbutus is an infusion or extract for internal use.

  • Astringent and diuretic.
  • Bladder and urinary troubles: of special value when the urine contains blood or pus, and when there is irritation.


The infusion of 1 ounce of the arbutus leaves to a pint of boiling water may be taken freely.

Culinary Uses for Arbutus

In Spain, a sugar and spirit have been extracted from the fruit and a wine made from it in Corsica. When eaten in quantities this fruit is said to be narcotic, and the wine made from it in Spain has the same property.


Overdosages could lead to inflammatory reactions of the mucous membranes of the bladder and urinary passages, accompanied by strangury and possible blood in the urine.

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