How little we know about the nature around us. On one of my walks I noticed an unusual fruit in a tree and decided to take a picture. People started asking me what it was. Well, let me tell you.
Madrone or arbutus belongs to the family Ericaceae. It is common in Mexico, but can be also found in the Mediterranean as well as North America (where we are), and in Europe you can find it in Ireland. An Irishman must have lived at some point in the house next door to mine. Our town was historically inhabited by the Irish. Lately the demographics have changed, and now Brazilians dominate.
Judging from the height of the tree it is over 45 years old. They grow slowly, adding only 5 meters in height in 45 years. My son is just under two meters tall, so I can estimate the age of the tree. Meanwhile in the Crimea, in the towns of Gaspra and Ai-Nikola, these trees reach a thousand years of age and the trunk diameter of 4 meters!
The Arbutus unedo tree makes up part of the coat of arms of the city of Madrid, Spain. An image of it can be seen in Madrid on taxi cabs and other city infrastructure.
There are 14 species of this plant. It is a honey plant. The bees like it, so maybe the former owner of the house had bees. Well, it was a long time ago. But we can still enjoy the unusual sight of the fruit of this unique tree.
Its bark contains Grayanotoxin which is poisonous for humans. So please don’t bite this tree!
The leaves, meanwhile, are used for tanning leather. I do not know whether the former owner of the house had anything to do with leather making, but I will try to find out if I have a chance. Our town is quite remarkable; it has seen a lot of historic events.
It is interesting that the Russian article about the plant does not mention its fruit, while the English one says that the fruit is edible. It also says that it has a different name in Canada. In the English article mandrone has a Spanish name, mandroño. In Puerta Del Sol there is a statue of a bear eating the fruit of the Madroño tree. Apparently, bears become drunk from eating fermented berries. It is a kind of a liquor store for them. And indeed the Spanish distill the fruit into Madroño, a sweet, fruity liqueur.
Salish people of Vancouver Island use arbutus bark and leaves to create medicines for colds, stomach problems, and tuberculosis. The tree also figured into certain myths of Salish that speak the Salish language. Salish also use the wood as a heat source, but the Saanich people do not burn madrone.
According to the Great Flood legends of several tribes in the northwest, the madrone helped them survive by providing an anchor on top of a mountain.