Threatened plants of the world

Red List status: VULNERABLE

The orange/red fruits of this tree, and its close relatives, have given rise to the name strawberry tree. There, however, the similarity ends as the fruits taste nothing like strawberries. Arbutus canariensis is a small tree found wild on some of the islands that form the Canary Islands archipelago. The local Spanish name is madrono and populations of this tree are known on the islands of Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Palma and Gran Canaria.

Although as few as ten subpopulations are thought to exist, numbers appear to be stable at present. The biggest concern for the future of this tree is that climate change alters conditions in the cloud forest habitat where it grows. Small isolated populations are particularly vulnerable to change and often do not contain sufficient genetic variation to be able to adapt to new conditions. Drier conditions increase the incidence of forest fires, to which the strawberry tree is poorly adapted. This will gradually lead to fire adapted species out competing strawberry trees.

Strawberry trees have attractive bark and have become garden plants in areas with suitable climates. This helps to conserve threatened species, but is no substitute for conservation in the wild.