Imagine a sort of giant cherry, with yellow and fleshy pulp, with a grainy surface covered with rigid tubercles: it is under this garment that the strawberry trees, fruits of the homonymous plant known in botany as Arbutus unedo, appear. In the spoken language, the strawberry tree is also famous as an albatross : it is a small tree or, better to say, a bush, belonging to the same family as the bilberry, the Ericaceae.

An ancient symbol of the Tricolor, in autumn the strawberry tree takes on a characteristic triple color: the white of the flowers, the red of the fruits and the green of the leaves refer, precisely, to the Italian flag.

Analysis of the term

Like innumerable plant names, the strawberry tree also derives from ancient Greek: precisely, the archaic term is κόμαρος and it is from this name that, over the years, many more and more dialectal names derived from the strawberry tree were derived.


The strawberry tree has a very ancient origin: so much so that it is even mentioned in a passage of the Aeneid.

Although the strawberry tree is native to the Mediterranean maquis, over the years it has spread to the Nordic regions, even reaching Ireland.

The plant is often cultivated for ornamental use, given its decorative peculiarity; however, the fruits are edible and their use has long been known in phytotherapy, thanks to the astringent and, above all, disinfectants of the urinary tract.

Botanical description

In the botanical nomenclature, the arbutus is Arbutus unedo : the plant in question is a very branched evergreen shrub, both cultivated and tamed. It can assume heights varying from one to eight meters. The strawberry tree is characterized by leathery, glossy, oval and very large leaves (length: 10-12 cm, width 2-4 cm), with serrated and irregular margins.

The flowers, very particular and bell-shaped, are gathered in hanging panicles; as we have already analyzed, the flowers are white, sometimes pink, and pour out very small teeth, an unmistakable characteristic.

The anthers of the arbutus flowers attract many bees to themselves because they are very rich in nectar: ​​the problem is represented by the period of flowering, between October and November, when bees are not always active. However, the honey obtained has a delicate taste, with a particular bitter note.

The arbutus plant blooms and bears fruit at the same time: this joke of Nature is explained by the fact that the fruits derive from the flowers of the previous vintage [taken from Dizionario ragionato of herbal medicine and phytotherapy, by A. Bruni, M. Nicoletti]

The fruits, red and big as a cherry, have yellow flesh and a tuberculous surface.

Chemical analysis and properties

The strawberry tree boasts numerous properties, most of which are attributed to tannins, which constitute a rather consistent quantity: in this regard, the strawberry tree is used in phytotherapy as a disinfectant of the urinary tract. The extract is also characterized by arbutin, a hydroquinone glucoside that lends itself perfectly to the treatment of cystitis and urinary inflammation in general. However, in arbutus the arbutin content, compared to that of the bearberry, is decidedly lower.

Only recently, some components have been isolated in the strawberry tree: iridoid gardenoside and asperuloside.

The phytocomplex extracted from the strawberry tree ensures disinfectant, strongly astringent and diuretic (bland) properties. In phytotherapy, the use of arbutus in the form of an infusion is recommended in case of intestinal inflammation. The use of mother tincture in prostatic and urethral affections is generally accepted: it seems, in fact, that the arbutus mother tincture is capable of interrupting the cascade of events that feed urethritis, thus favoring the repair of the urethral mucosa.

It is imperative not to exceed the doses: an immoderate use of arbutus and products based on the same, can cause damage to the gastrointestinal level. As with all herbal products, the strawberry tree can also interact with drugs: in this regard, it is advisable to tell the doctor or herbalist which pharmacological substances are being taken.


Strawberry tree: to fix the concepts ...

Strawberry tree: nomenclature Common name: arbutus, albatross

Botanical name: Arbutus unedo

Strawberry tree: origin of the term "Corbezzolo" derives from the ancient Greek (κόμαρος), a term from which derived a multitude of dialectal nicknames over the years
Strawberry tree: symbolism Strawberry tree → Tricolor: white flowers, green leaves and red fruits
Strawberry tree: fruit Comparable to a giant cherry with yellow flesh and a grainy surface covered with rigid tubercles
Strawberry tree: general characters Origin: Mediterranean maquis

Current spread: Northern regions, Ireland

Uses: ornamental-decorative, food, herbal medicine

Strawberry tree: botanical description
  • Botanical name: Arbustus unedo
  • Family: Ericaceae
  • Brief description: a very branched evergreen shrub, both cultivated and ripened
  • Height: 1-8 meters
  • Flowers: very special and bell-shaped, gathered in hanging panicles. White or rosé
  • Flower anthers: very rich in nectar
  • Flowering: October and November
  • Flowering and fruiting: take place simultaneously (the fruits derive from the flowers of the previous year)
Strawberry tree: chemical analysis of the components Tannins

Arbutin (hydroquinone glucoside)

Iridoids: gardenoside and asperuloside

Strawberry tree: medicinal properties
  • Urinary tract disinfectant
  • Natural remedy against cystitis and urinary inflammation
  • Disinfectant, strongly astringent and diuretic properties
  • Recommended in case of intestinal inflammation
  • Strawberry tree mother tincture: useful for prostatic and urethral affections
Strawberry tree: contraindications Inordinate use → gastrointestinal damage

Possible drug interactions