Marina arbutus is most likely a hybrid of the native Arbutus menziesii, or madroño tree, and another species of arbutus, according to the University of California. The plant is sometimes called the strawberry tree for its white-to-pink flowers and hanging, yellow or red fruit. The showy flowers bloom in late summer and last until early winter, when they are followed by the brightly-coloured fruit, making this tree an excellent choice for home gardeners who want a plant that will liven up the winter landscape.
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Size and Appearance
Marina arbutus trees are slow-growing, according to the University of California. These moderately-sized trees will reach a maximum height of only 40 feet and a canopy width of 30 feet. The trunk and branches, which reach upward, are covered with smooth, red bark, which peels to reveal a darker, reddish-brown wood underneath. The dark-green, glossy leaves can be as long as 5 inches. Newly uncurling leaves are an attractive, bright bronze colour.
Flowers and Fruit
The strawberry tree features clusters of pink and white flowers that hang vertically from the tree. The flowers develop around the previous year’s fruit, which remains on the tree until the new fruit develops. The fruit is round, and red or yellow in colour. It is also edible and tastes like a mixture of kiwis and strawberries, according to the University of California. The texture of the fruit is gritty.
Marina arbutus grows best in loamy, well-draining soil and in a location that receives full sun to partial afternoon shade. The tree can be purchased as a multitrunked or single-trunked specimen. Single-trunked trees should be staked during the first year or two of growth for added stability. Prune to thin out the dense foliage and branches, which will help control growth and also expose the rich colour of the bark.
Marina arbutus trees work well in a home garden due to their slow rate of growth, according to the University of California. They make excellent patio or specimen trees. The strawberry tree is also a good habitat tree. Birds seem to love the berries, never mind the gritty texture, and butterflies, bees and other insects love the nectar-producing flowers. Deer are also known to love this plant, so home gardeners who have a deer population might decide to plant something else instead, or protect the tree from hungry deer.
The strawberry tree is extremely hardy and almost trouble-free, according to the University of California. The one thing Marina arbutus will not tolerate, however, is overly wet, soggy soil. If the soil does not drain well, the tree will wilt and eventually die. Avoid planting Marina arbutus in places where flooding occurs or standing water collects.
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