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Arbutus Flower

All About the Arbutus Tree

The arbutus tree is a plant found in the Mediterranean, Western Europe and North America. They are a beautiful and unique plant often cultivated for ornamental purposes, and carry a rich and unique history (specifically the varieties native to British Columbia). If you’re still on the fence about getting an arbutus tree for yourself or a loved one, read on to learn more about this wonderful plant.

Description of the Arbutus Treer

There are only around fourteen types of plants in the arbutus genus, and they all share similar traits. Standing as trees or shrubs, these plants feature beautiful red bark with contrasting emerald leaves that produce berries and flower annually. They also remain green year-round (and are the only broadleaf trees to do so), meaning they are a beautiful sight to behold any day of the year.

Uses for the Arbutus Tree

Most of the uses for the Arbutus tree are for purely ornamental reasons. Since they are always green, they always looks great and in season, which makes them a great addition to any yard or garden. The tree itself also makes excellent firewood, as it burns at a high temperature and for a lengthy amount of time, but isn’t good for much else as the tree does not grow straight enough to be used in building construction. The berries that grow on the tree are edible (though not particularly tasty), and some places like Madrid and Portugal distill them into brandy and liqueurs.

Cultural Significance of the Arbutus Tree

The story of the arbutus tree according to the Straits Salish people is that an anthropomorphic resin—or pitch—would go fishing, but had to return before it got too hot. On one of these trips he returned too late, and melted under the hot sun. Several trees came to rescue him, the first being the Douglas Fir, who ended up with the most resin, followed by the Grand Fir and finally the Arbutus, who received no resin; this is why arbutus trees are the only evergreen tree without sap. The Straits Salish people also regularly used parts of the arbutus for medicinal purposes, creating medicines for stomach problems, colds and even tuberculosis.