Unusual & Old Fashioned Fruit Trees



 Gaultheria - Pernettya.

Gaultherias, otherwise known as Pernettyas, are not trees, but are another common garden perennial plant that most people don’t realise have edible berries, or fruits. Admittedly those of Wintergreen are more medicinal than edible, but others such as the berries of “Salal,” or “Shallon,” are very tasty and excellent to eat. Not only do most species produce harvestable fruit, but pollinating insects, in particular Bees, love the flowers. Gaultherias, generally are extremely tough little plants with some species capable of withstanding over 20 degrees Centigrade of frost and once established some will cope with dry conditions, although all prefer acidic soil and some shade. All species are easy to propagate as they sucker freely. In total there are about 170 species coming from most of the Temperate regions of the World.

Gaultheria Procumbens is popularly known as “Wintergreen,” and is a dense, low growing, creeping evergreen shrub from Eastern North American where it grows to only 5 inches high in woodland type areas. This attractive little plant has leathery, glossy green leaves and pretty pinkish white flowers in the summer. The flowers are typically followed in late Autumn by red berries. Gaultheria have been hybridised to produce different coloured berries though, (white and pink) because they provide Winter colour and as such are popular plants for garden centres to sell throughout the colder months of the year when there is not much of interest about. Wintergreen berries are medicinal rather than edible as a fruit, because they contain an aspirin-type compound, as do in fact all parts of the plant.

Gaultheria Shallon, Salal, is a species not often seen on sale here in the U.K. but is the more interesting type for those wanting edible berries as the fruits of this shrub are larger and taste good to eat. The dark purple berries produced at the end of the Summer flowering season grow in clusters and are some 10 mm across. The shrub itself is a vigorous evergreen and grows a little larger than Procumbens reaching between 4 and 10 ft high.

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