South west Ireland is remarkable for lots of reasons but from a botanical point of view the flora is unlike other parts of the British Isles and the jewel in the crown is Arbutus unedo, the Killarney strawberry tree. Native to the Atlantic coasts of Portugal, NW France and SW Ireland it is now a moderately common garden plant known for its attractive bark, evergreen leaves, small, honey-scented pink and white flowers in autumn and the red fruits that give the tree its name. Though superficially resembling strawberries the fruits are not very tasty and the name ‘unedo’ means ‘you eat one’ in reference to how many you are likely to munch on. It was reportedly very common in the Killarney area but was extensively cut down for burning and charcoal production in the last two centuries. So, although my Kerry trip was not primarily to see the tree in the wild and it was a quick tour, I was hoping to see the fabled Killarney strawberry tree.
I was a day too late….