What a sweetheart of a fruit tree this one is! A rapid grower and bearer, the tree produces a beautiful, sweet, red berry (1.5cm) within six to nine months of planting.
The tree, when fully grown, rarely exceeds 10m and has a pleasant shade canopy of green/grey leaves, the branches of which will carry numerous fragrant white flowers (similar to those of the true strawberry), turning into a profusion of very juicy red berries.
The tree is not particular in its soil requirements; however it thrives on a general fertilising with generous mulching and watering. It will grow quite comfortably in full sun.
The strawberry tree is native to tropical America and the West Indies; however it is thought to have been carried to the Philippines by the early Spanish explorers, and thence onto the Malay Peninsula, and first fruiting in the Singapore Botanical Gardens in 1910.
It is believed Japanese soldiers during World War 2 introduced the seeds into Papua New Guinea.
With the renewed interest in tropical fruit trees over the last few years, a small number of strawberry trees are now found in Queensland.
The tree is a valuable inclusion to the landscaping of any garden and its fruit is particularly popular with children.
In Asia, a decoction of the leaves becomes an antidiarrhetic, a bark decoction is used as an emollient, and an infusion of the flowers for headache relief.
The soft pliable bark may be twisted into rope.
This is a back-yard fruit tree which is definitely worthy of more recognition and cultivation.
Muntingia calabura is also known as the capulin, Panama berry, Japanese cherry, Jam fruit and datiles.
DATE: September 1980
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