Canary madrone, Canary Islands strawberry tree (Eng); madroño canario, madroño, madroñero (Spa).
DID YOU KNOW...? The fruit of the Canary madrone has been related to the famous ‛golden apples’ of Greek mythology, found in the Garden of the Hesperides.
The Canary madrone is a medium-sized evergreen tree that is generally 3-4 m tall, although it can reach more than 7 m in height and be fairly hefty. It has a dense, globose crown with open branches. It stands out for the showy reddish orange colour of its bark, which becomes detached in thin plates to reveal a very smooth trunk that is soft to the touch. Unlike the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), its bark does not grey with age. The leaves are simple, alternating, oblong-lanceolate, up to 15 cm long by 2-4 cm wide, hairless and with a serrated margin. They normally appear grouped in bunches at the ends of the branches. Adult leaves are dark green on the upper side and somewhat lighter on the underside. In autumn or at the beginning of winter, the Canary madrone becomes covered with showy hanging clusters of numerous bell-shaped, perfumed, hermaphroditic flowers. These are very pale greenish white in colour, occasionally totally or partially tinted pink. When in full blossom it is easy to distinguish from the strawberry tree due to the abundance of tiny glandular hairs on the flower stalks. The fruits are very fleshy (berries), edible, more or less spherical, and 2-3 cm in diameter. When ripe, they have a yellowish-orange granular surface, unlike strawberry tree fruit which are redder in colour. Overall, the fruits resemble small satsumas. Their pulp is full of lots of tiny seeds.
The Canary madrone is quite delicate in the first stages of its development and prefers sunny areas, although it needs a certain amount of moisture in the environment. Its natural range indicates that this species is linked mainly to the monteverde forest area and its margins. The best examples are found in steep, precipitous laurel forests, which have enabled them to survive. To a lesser extent this plant can be found as a refugee species in the Morella-Erica heath. It may also appear very occasionally in areas of transition with the humid pine zone. It tends to appear sporadically, but is able to form small copses. It generally grows between altitudes of 500-1000 m.
This tree is native to the Canary Islands and is found in the central and western islands of the archipelago. In the mid 1970s, the engineers Luis Ceballos and Francisco Ortuño reported that it was 'almost extinct' in La Palma and La Gomera, where only a few specimens remained. In El Hierro and Tenerife this tree is still common, although in Gran Canary it is very rare.