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Monday, July 11, 2011

Arbutus 'Marina' - Marina Strawberry tree

The Marina Strawberry tree is a great small tree with outstanding seasonal interests which include exfoliating bark, small pink flowers and red fruit. There are several great street plantings of Marina in Santa Cruz, but you can see this tree almost on every street. This is the great planting on New Street. There is a short bit of its history from the San Marcos Nursery website:

Marina Strawberry tree will likely stay about 25' tall but the original one in the Marina district of SF was close to 50' before being removed, so to call it a small tree might be a mistake, but not likely around here. Generally it has a straight single stem, with a more or less rounded crown to slightly oval and is evergreen. However I prefer the multi-stemmed forms for homes as the bark is key and getting more stems means more bark.

The leaves are evergreen, alternately arranged, elliptical shaped, 4-5" long, leathery, dark green in color but may have a tinge of bronze when emerging. The leaf margins are lightly serrated, petioles are usually red in color. Young stems are red and fairly stout. Vigorous stems may also have some short stiff hairs.

The tree seems to bloom year round, but heavy flowering in spring and fall. The flowers are small, white to pinkish tinged urn-shaped in large pendulous clusters at the ends of the branches.

The fruit, of course which is where the common name originates is supposed to look like a strawberry, well maybe a native one but not a commercial edible one thats for sure. They are about an inch in diameter, orange to red colored, warty and yes you can eat them. But you better be hungry.

Perhaps the bark is really why people want this tree in their yard. It is magnificent. Branches are smooth mahogany colored but exfoliate in the late summer or early fall to reveal cinnamon and greens below, but the peeling parts are really great looking, reminds me of Acer griseum for a warmer climate. If you wanted the native Arbutus in your yard  but can't get it to grow, try this one.

On older parts of the tree the bark will stop peeling.

I thought the bark was awesome, but the kids at the Boys and Girls Club downtown made them look even better.

Locations: Everywhere.

Santa Cruz:
on New St are some of the largest ones

Misidentification? Native Madrone (A. menziesii) maybe, they have great bark as well, but the leaves are larger both longer and wider, stems are grooved,  the flowers white, fruit smaller and more orange and if you see one in a landscape its likely not as they really prefer their native sandy soils.

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