ARBUTUS MENZIESII (PACIFIC MADRONA, MADRONE or ARBUTUS) is a species
of tree in the family
Ericaceae , native to the western coastal areas
of North America, from
British Columbia to
* 1 Common names
* 2 Description
* 3 Distribution and habitat
* 4 Cultivation
* 5 Uses
* 6 Conservation
* 7 Largest specimen burned
* 8 References
* 9 Works cited
* 10 External links
Arbutus menziesii lignotuber near ground level provides
fire-resistant storage of energy and sprouting buds if fire damage
requires replacement of the trunk or limbs.
It is also known as the madroa , madroño, madroña, or bearberry.
The name "strawberry tree" (A. unedo ) may also be found in relation
to A. menziesii (though it has no relation to the strawberry fruit).
In the United States, the name "madrone" is used south of the Siskiyou
Mountains of southern Oregon and Northern
California and the name
"madrona" is used north of the Siskiyou Mountains, according to the
"Sunset Western Garden Book". The Concow tribe calls the tree
Konkow language ) or KOU-WäT′-CHU. In British
Columbia it is simply referred to as ARBUTUS. Its species name was
given it in honour of the Scottish naturalist
Archibald Menzies , who
noted it during
George Vancouver 's voyage of exploration.
Arbutus menziesii is an evergreen tree with rich orange-red bark that
when mature naturally peels away in thin sheets, leaving a greenish,
silvery appearance that has a satin sheen and smoothness. The exposed
wood sometimes feels cool to the touch. In spring, it bears sprays of
small bell-like flowers, and in autumn, red berries. The berries dry
up and have hooked barbs that latch onto larger animals for migration.
It is common to see madronas of about 10 to 25 metres (33 to 82 ft) in
height, but with the right conditions trees may reach up to 30 metres
(98 ft). In ideal conditions madronas can also reach a thickness of 5
to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.4 m) at the trunk, much like an oak tree. Leaves
are thick with a waxy texture, oval, 7 to 15 centimetres (2.8 to 5.9
in) long and 4 to 8 centimetres (1.6 to 3.1 in) broad, arranged
spirally; they are glossy dark green above and a lighter, more grayish
green beneath, with an entire margin. The leaves are evergreen,
lasting a few years before detaching, but in the north of its range,
wet winters often promote a brown to black leaf discoloration due to
fungal infections. The stain lasts until the leaves naturally detach
at the end of their lifespan.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
Madrones are native to the western coast of North America, from
British Columbia (chiefly
Vancouver Island and the
Gulf Islands ) to
California. They are mainly found in
Puget Sound , the Oregon Coast
Range , and
California Coast Ranges ; but are also scattered on the
west slope of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. They are
rare south of Santa Barbara County, with isolated stands south to
Palomar Mountain in California. One author lists their southern range
as extending as far as Baja
California in Mexico, but others point
out that there are no recorded specimens collected that far south,
and the trees are absent from modern surveys of native trees there.
Arbutus species are endemic to the area.
The trees are difficult to transplant and a seedling should be set in
its permanent spot while still small. Transplant mortality becomes
significant once a madrone is more than 1 foot (30 cm) tall. The site
should be sunny (south- or west-facing slopes are best), well drained,
and lime-free (although occasionally a seedling will establish itself
on a shell midden ). In its native range, a tree needs no extra water
or food once it has become established. Water and nitrogen fertilizer
will boost its growth, but at the cost of making it more susceptible
This plant has gained the
Royal Horticultural Society 's Award of
Garden Merit .
In spring, it bears sprays of small, white, bell-shaped flowers.
Native Americans ate the berries, but because the berries have a high
tannin content and are thus astringent , they more often chewed them
or made them into a cider. They also used the berries to make
necklaces and other decorations, and as bait for fishing. Bark and
leaves were used to treat stomachaches, cramps, skin ailments, and
sore throats. The bark was often made into a tea to be drunk for these
medicinal purposes. Many mammal and bird species feed off the
berries, including American robins , cedar waxwings , band-tailed
pigeons , varied thrushes , quail , mule deer , raccoons , ring-tailed
cats , and bears .
Mule deer will also eat the young shoots when the
trees are regenerating after fire. It is also important as a nest
site for many birds, and in mixed woodland it seems to be chosen for
nestbuilding disproportionately to its numbers. The wood is durable
and has a warm color after finishing, so it has become more popular as
a flooring material, especially in the Pacific Northwest. An
attractive veneer can also be made from the wood. However, because
large pieces of madrona lumber warp severely and unpredictably during
the drying process, they are not used much. Madrone is burned for
firewood, though, since it is a very hard and dense wood that burns
long and hot, surpassing even oak in this regard. The peeling red
papery bark is distinctive
Although drought tolerant and relatively fast growing, Arbutus
menziesii is currently declining throughout most of its range. One
likely cause is fire control; under natural conditions, the madrona
depends on intermittent naturally occurring fires to reduce the
conifer overstory. Mature trees survive fire, and can regenerate
more rapidly after fire than the Douglas firs with which they are
often associated. They also produce very large numbers of seeds, which
sprout following fire.
Increasing development pressures in its native habitat have also
contributed to a decline in the number of mature specimens. This tree
is extremely sensitive to alteration of the grade or drainage near the
root crown. Until about 1970, this phenomenon was not widely
recognized on the west coast; thereafter, many local governments have
addressed this issue by stringent restrictions on grading and drainage
Arbutus menziesii trees are present. The species is
also affected to a small extent by sudden oak death, a disease caused
by the water-mold
Phytophthora ramorum .
LARGEST SPECIMEN BURNED
Soberanes Fire in the summer of 2016, the largest known
specimen of madrone was burned and possibly killed. The tree, 125 feet
(38 m) tall and more than 25 feet (7.6 m) in diameter, was listed on
American Forests National Big Tree list, a register of the biggest
trees by species in the United States. The tree was located within the
Joshua Creek Canyon Ecological Reserve on the
Big Sur Coast of
California. The fire was caused by an illegal campfire.
* ^ This species was originally described and published in Flora
Americae Septentrionalis; or, a Systematic Arrangement and Description
of the Plants of North America 1:282. 1813–1814. GRIN (April 25,
Arbutus menziesii information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for
Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland
: USDA , ARS , National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved August 5,
* ^ The Plant List,
Arbutus menziesii Pursh
* ^ http://calscape.org/Arbutus-menziesii-(Madrone)
* ^ Chesnut, p. 406
* ^ A B McDonald, Philip M.; Tappeiner, II, John C. "Pacific
Madrone". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
* ^ A B Lang, Frank A. "Pacific madrone". The Oregon Encyclopedia.
Portland State University. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
* ^ A B C D E F G Reeves, Sonja L. "
Arbutus menziesii". Fire
Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest
Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
Retrieved September 22, 2012.
* ^ "Pacific Madrone". Washington State Department of Ecology.
Retrieved May 24, 2013.
* ^ Metcalf, pp. 69–70
* ^ A B Richards, Davi (April 20, 2006). "The majestic, demanding
madrone". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. p. 26 (Home & Garden).
Retrieved May 24, 2013.
* ^ Hitchcock, Charles Leo (1959). Vascular Plants of the Pacific
Northwest: Part 4
Ericaceae through Campanulaceae. University of