The Strawberry Tree and the Two Tailed Pasha

Right now our Strawberry Trees are in full fruit and the kids are going nuts collecting them and making them into what they call "jam" i.e. mashing them up and putting them onto toast to eat!  My Grandson Kimba (aged 4) LOVES them and eats them straight from the tree.

This reminded me of a conversation I had with my Dad, a butterfly expert among many other things, about the trees.  He mentioned the absolutely gorgeous butterfly Charades jasius, otherwise known as The Two Tailed Pasha or (even better) The Foxy Emperor that makes this tree its home.

These beautiful butterflies are common here flying around from May to June and again in August to October, they fly very fast around their food trees and females can be seen at about head height fluttering among the branches of the Strawberry Tree looking for egg laying sites usually at the centre of and on top of the leaf.  The egg is large and easily seen.

Arbutus - The Strawberry Tree

Arbutus - The Strawberry Tree

The Larvae are distinctive, they are green and have fearsome dinosaur-like heads with four spikes pointing backwards.  They rest on a silk pad on their chosen leaf and will return to this pad after feeding on Arbutus leaves nearby.

The Arbutus tree itself is amazing, the leaves are dark green and glossy, the flowers are white and a very pretty bell shape and are pollinated by bees so it is a greatly valued tree around our area of Portugal for honey production.  The fruits are food for birds but are also used to make jams, drinks and the famous Medronho here in Portugal which is a strong, brandy like liquor.  Among all our neighbours the tree is commonly known as the Medronho tree and is also prized at a strong, dense wood that is good for burning too.  We have lots of these trees on our land, and for obvious reasons, will continue to nurture and look after all new seedlings as and when they appear.

The plant itself has been used for antiseptic, astringent, rheumatism and a general tonic so Im sure that Kimba my Grandson will be fine in his passion for these lovely little red fruits!!

Ishbel Ramsay