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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - September 24, 2011

From: Jacksonville, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Edible Plants
Title: Identification of tree with strawberry-like fruit in North Carolina
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

While visiting Boone, North Carolina we walked the Greenway in town. There were a few trees with a round red fruit similar to a strawberry. They were about the size of a penny and a dull red color dotted like a strawberry. However, the inside was a yellowish fruit. I took a small taste of it and it was sweet and delicious. I couldn't find a local person that knew the name of this fruited tree.

ANSWER:

From your description I think the most likely candidate for your plant is an introduced tree from the Mediterranean region, western Europe and Ireland, Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree).  The USDA Plants Database doesn't show a distribution map but it should be able to survive in North Carolina if it grows in Ireland.  The inside of the fruit is yellow and it is edible and reportedly sweet and delicious.  Here are more photos and information.

If that doesn't look like your tree, here is another introduced possibility:

Myrica rubra [synonym Morella rubra] (red bayberry), sometimes called Chinese strawberry tree, is a non-native from China, Korea and Japan.  Its distribution on the map in the USDA Plants Database shows it occurring only in Georgia, but it might possibly occur in North Carolina.  The fruits and seeds of Myrica rubra are edible but the wax on the fruits of some of the species in the genus Myrica has been considered carcinogenic.

Then there are a couple of native species that have similar fruits:

Euonymus americanus (American strawberry-bush) and here are more photos.

Euonymus atropurpureus (Burningbush) and here are more photos

All parts, including the fruits, of Euonymous spp. are considered poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

 

From the Image Gallery


American strawberry bush
Euonymus americanus

American strawberry bush
Euonymus americanus

Burningbush
Euonymus atropurpureus

Burningbush
Euonymus atropurpureus

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