by Britta Soderqvist, Plant Curator
Last week we asked you to identify this plant:
Today, we have the answer for you –
Strawberry Tree or Jamaica Cherry, Muntingia calabura
This is a perfect tree for a lazy gardener! Do you enjoy sweet, home-grown fruit like strawberries but don’t like all that bending and stooping to plant, weed and harvest? The strawberry tree produces copious amounts of small, sweet fruits at least twice a year, all at knee level or higher. Don’t like to spend the money and effort fertilizing and watering your garden? This tree grows well in poor soils and is even used to help revegetate disturbed and eroded soils in some parts of the world. Once established, the strawberry tree shouldn’t require any extra watering except in prolonged droughts.
The strawberry tree (named for the flower that resembles the strawberry plant) may grow up to 40 feet, but the fruits will easily fall to the ground when the tree is shaken. Although not native to Florida, it is native to the tropical Americas and will do well in areas that do not freeze often (Zones 10-11). If you live in a colder climate, plants grown in pots should still produce fruits. Although it is reported that wildlife will eat the fruits, there are plenty of ripe fruits underneath the Edison & Ford Winter Estates trees, suggesting that our local birds don’t care for them. The large tree at the Estates (across the paved road from our Banyan Café) was planted in 2006 and is approximately 15 feet tall now. The Estates Garden Shoppe sells strawberry trees for $10-$15 depending on the size of the plant.