Phylogeography of representative plant species of the Mediterranean flora


Arbutus unedo L.

Strawberry Tree






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Buñol (Valencia, Spain), 11.2007, © E. Laguna


Description: An evergreen, hermaphrodite tall shrub or tree up to 10-12 m. Leaves alternate, long (up to 12 cm), coriaceous or leathery, ellongaly elliptic, with serrulate edges. Fissured, persistent, red-brown bark. Bell-shaped flowers up to 1 cm, withe to pale pink, forming dense and pendent clusters. Ball-shaped, fleshy fruit, red and edible when ripe; the fruit was used as human food since the ancient times. Diploid, 2n=26.


Selling strawberry tree fruits at the medinah of Fez (Marocco) 11.2007, © F. Boisset


Distribution: Almost the Mediterranean-climate area, absent in the most aride regions; it also extends by the Atlantic coast up to Southwestern France. By the East it overlaps its distribution area with the Greek Strawberry Tree Arbutus andrachne L..


Distribution map of Arbutus unedo*

*From BOLÒS, O. & J. VIGO (1984-2001), reproduced with the editor's permission.


Habitat: Tall maquis and evergreen Mediterranean forests, mostly on siliceous or sandy soils up to 1.200-1.500 m.


Variability: Few variable in size and aspect. Some strawberry trees around the Mediterranean area,  anciently recognized as varieties, use to be considered nowadays as different species, i.e. Arbutus pavarii Pamp. (endemic to the Cyrenaic area in Lybia) and A. canariensis Duham. (from the Canary islands), both of them with non-persisten bark. Througout the overlapping area of Arbutus andrachne and A. unedo, the hybrid A. x andrachnoides Link can be found. 


FILMED's selected populations: Argelia (1), France (4), Greece (4), Italy (4), Marocco (4), Portugal (2), Spain (19), Tunisia (2), Turkey (3).

In addition, populations of close species have been sampled: A. andrachne (1 from Cyprus, 1 from Greece and 3 from Turkey) and A. pavarii (3 from Lybia)



Flowers: Valencia (Spain), 11.2006 ; Berries: Nice (France), 10.1996  © E. Laguna



-BOLÒS, O. & J. VIGO (1984-2001). Flora dels Països Catalans. 4 vols. Ed. Barcino. Barcelona.

-BURNIE, D. 1995. Wild flowers of the Mediterranean. 320 pp. Dorling Kindersley. London.

-CASTROVIEJO, S., coord. gral. (1986-2008): Flora Iberica. 14 vols. Real Jardín Botánico-CSIC. Madrid.

-DAVIES, P. & B. GIBBONS. 1993. Field guide to the Wild Flowers of Southern Europe. 320 pp. Crowood Press. Marlborough.

-POLUNIN, O. & A. HUXLEY. 1990. Flowers of the Mediterranean. 2nd ed. 272 pp. Chatto & Windus. London.

POLUNIN, O. & B.E. SMITHIES. 1997. Flowers of South-West Europe. 480 pp. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

-SCHÖNFELDER, I. & 9. SCHÖNFELDER. 1984. Collins photoguide to the wildflowers of the Mediterranean. Collins. London.

-TUTIN, T.G., V.H. HEYWOOD, N.A. BURGES, D.H. VALENTINE, S.M. WALTERS & D.A. WEBB. 1964-1980. Flora Europaea. 5 vols. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

-VEDEL, H. 1978. Trees and shrubs of the Mediterranean. Penguin. London.


Recommended webpages:

-Virtual Herbarium of the Western Mediterranean:

-Flora Iberica:


-Mediterranean Wildflowers (pictures): 

-Spanish Wildflowers (pictures):





Flower clusters and berries of cultivated trees Catarroja (Valencia, España)11.2008 © E. Laguna



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