Sunday, November 23, 2008

Strawberry tree

Colorful yellow to orange-red and scarlet fruits in autumn make Strawberry tree one of the showiest of small evergreen trees or shrubs native to Sicily. Edible yellowish pulp with many tiny seeds lies beneath the rough textured strawberry-like skin of mature red berries. The slightly sweet taste of these decorative fruits and their mealy texture appeals mainly to local birds. At the same time that the current season's fruits ripen, small, white to greenish white, bell-shaped flowers open in drooping clusters. These give rise to fruits that mature the following autumn. Strawberry tree has attractive, reddish brown, shredding bark and dark green, leathery leaves with red stems. Because of its highly ornamental character, Strawberry tree is grown both as a container and landscape garden plant.

Scientific name: Arbutus unedo
Italian common name: Corbezzolo
English common name: Strawberry tree

Saturday, November 15, 2008

English hawthorn

In autumn, English hawthorn makes a breathtaking show of color with bright red fruits that decorate its branches against the background of a sapphire blue Sicilian sky. These small apple-like fruits which contain 2 or 3 seeds, have long been used in traditional medicines. They develop from clusters of white flowers that open in Spring. English hawthorn grows as a small thorny tree, often branching from the lower trunk, or as a shrub, depending on growing conditions.

Scientific name: Crataegus laevigata (C. oxycantha)
Italian common name: Biancospino selvatico
English common name: English hawthorn

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wild pear

In Spring, wild pear trees are transformed into floating white clouds by the flowers that crowd their thorny branches. This is one of the Noble Hardwoods of Europe and its fine grained wood is considered ideal for wood wind instruments. Wild pear is seldom abundant in the Sicilian countryside, but isolated specimens grow along roadsides and borders of pastures and woodlands. The tree is deciduous, losing its leaves in mid-to-late autumn. Small, hard fruits that ripen to a brownish color about the same time or a little earlier, are inedible.

Scientific name: Pyrus pyraster
Italian common name: Pero selvatico
English common name: Wild pear

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dog rose

At this time plant taxonomists recognize 16 species of native Sicilian roses. Dog rose, a thorny shrub with white to pink 5-petaled flowers in spring and summer, is one of the most common. In autumn, the blooms are followed by a dazzling and long-lasting display of bright red seed pods or 'hips'. Rose hips are an edible, rich source of Vitamin C but quite tart if eaten raw. However, they are often prepared as jellies, jams, syrups, soups, seasonings and tea, as well as a wide range of homeopathic remedies. Harvest ripe rose hips after a good cold snap makes them slightly soft, from plants that have not been treated with pesticides. Slice pods open to remove the seeds which are covered with a lining of irritating hairs and rinse fleshy parts of the pod before use.
Scientific name: Rosa canina
Italian common name: Rosa selvatica comune
English common name: Dog rose