A somewhat tender, but highly desirable small yard tree, Arbutus 'Marina' has characteristics of Manzinata and Madrone trees. Now considered a natural hybrid of two tree species native to the Mediterranean region, Arbutus unedo and Arbutus andrachne. The most desirable characteristic is its bark, which peels away from the trunk and branches revealing the beautiful shiny red new bark underneath. The pendulous clusters of urn-shaped white-blushed-pink flowers are produced year-round along the coast with peaks in spring and fall. The tree is considered to be drought tolerant, but enjoys occasional summer watering. Hardy to 15-20 degrees F, the tree does best planted in full sun. The root system is a bit weak when the tree is young, so staking is recommended until fully established. The red strawberry-like fruit is edible, although has little flavor, but birds are attracted to eat the fruit so no litter is produced.
Some history: the tree was introduced by the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation from cuttings taken from a tree in the San Francisco garden of Carla and Victor Reiter. The origin of this tree is a bit of a mystery. Mr. Reiter's tree, planted in his garden in 1944, had been acquired in 1933 when he was allowed to take vegetative cuttings from a boxed specimen at the Strybing Arboretum. The Strybing Arboretum, under director Eric Walther, had purchased the boxed tree from the closing-down sale of Western Nursery on Lombard Street in the Marina District of San Francisco. Charles Abrahams, the owner of Western Nursery, was thought to have taken cuttings from trees that were sent from Europe for a horticultural display at the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exposition, one of which was probably this beautiful tree. Sadly, this historic and beautiful specimen tree in the Reiter's garden began to fall over and was cut down in 2006.