- Author: Karen Metz
In early June on the way home from a trip to Bodega Bay, my husband and I stopped in at the Luther Burbank Gold Ridge Experiment Farm. Luther Burbank, the famous American plantsman, had purchased the farm in 1885 and used it as a base for his long successful career. He is credited with developing over 800 varieties of plants, the most famous probably being the Santa Rosa Plum and the Shasta Daisy. The site has a self-guided tour and a nursery! If volunteers are not present, there is an honor system for purchasing plants. The address is 7777 Bodega Avenue, Sebastopol, CA.
One treasure we discovered at the farm is Ugni Molinae also known as strawberry myrtle or Chilean guava. According to the Plants for a Future website, this plant is native to Chile and southern Argentina. It has wonderful, small, fragrant flowers and berries, that are described as smelling and tasting like wild strawberries. It is used in making jams, desserts and a liqueur called murtado.
This plant is in the Myrtle family and can grow in USDA zones 7-11. It can get as tall as 6 feet and 3 feet wide and can be used as an ornamental hedge. It tolerates most soils as long as they are well drained. It prefers sun and can tolerate wind. It has both male and female flowers on the same plant and thus is self-fertile, but is pollinated by bees. Established plants are reported to be drought tolerant.
Another intriguing fact about this plant is that it was introduced to Britain in 1844. Queen Victoria was said to have adored its berries made into a jam. Apparently, she really liked eating, and this was one of her favorite foods.