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Arbutus menziesii

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Title: Arbutus menziesii  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Arbutus, Arbutus (disambiguation), Boeing Creek and Shoreview Park, Sphinx perelegans, Sunol Regional Wilderness
Collection: Arbutus, Flora of British Columbia, Flora of California, Flora of the West Coast of the United States, Flora of the Western United States, Natural History of the California Chaparral and Woodlands, Natural History of the California Coast Ranges, Natural History of the Peninsular Ranges, Natural History of the San Francisco Bay Area, Natural History of the Santa Monica Mountains, Natural History of the Transverse Ranges, Plants Described in 1813, Trees of British Columbia, Trees of California, Trees of Canada, Trees of Oregon, Trees of the United States, Trees of the West Coast (U.S.), Trees of Washington (State)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Arbutus menziesii

Pacific Madrona
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Arbutus
Species: A. menziesii
Binomial name
Arbutus menziesii
Natural range of Arbutus menziesii
  • Arbutus menziesii var. elliptica DC.
  • Arbutus menziesii var. oblongifolia DC.
  • Arbutus procera Douglas ex Lindl. 1836 not Sol. ex DC. 1839

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 California.


  • Common names 1
  • Description 2
  • Distribution and habitat 3
  • Cultivation 4
  • Uses 5
  • Conservation 6
  • References 7
  • Works cited 8
  • External links 9

Common names

It is also known as the madroño, madroña, or bearberry. The name "strawberry tree" (

  • Arbutus menziesiiJepson Flora Project:
  • The BC Ministry of Forests and Range Tree Book on Arbutus

External links

  • Chesnut, Victor King (January 24, 1902). Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California. Washington, D.C.:  
  • Metcalf, Woodbridge (1959). Native Trees of the San Francisco Bay Region. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.  
  • Niemiec, Stanley S.; Ahrens, Glenn R.; Hibbs, David E. (March 1995). "Hardwoods of the Pacific Northwest" (PDF). Oregon State University. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 

Works cited

  1. ^  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.  
  2. ^ PurshArbutus menziesiiThe Plant List,
  3. ^ Chesnut, p. 406
  4. ^ a b McDonald, Philip M.; Tappeiner, II, John C. "Pacific Madrone". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Lang, Frank A. "Pacific madrone". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Portland State University. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Pacific Madrone". Washington State Department of Ecology. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  8. ^ Metcalf, pp. 69–70
  9. ^ a b Richards, Davi (April 20, 2006). "The majestic, demanding madrone". The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon). p. 26 (Home & Garden). Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ Hitchcock, Charles Leo (1959). Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest: Part 4 Ericaceae through Campanulaceae. University of Washington Press. 
  11. ^ Minnich, Richard A; Franco-Vizcaino, Ernesto (1997). "Mediterranean vegetation of northern Baja California". Fremontia 25 (3). 
  12. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Arbutus menziesii AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "Pacific Madrone" (PDF). USDA Plant Guide. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. April 5, 2002. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  14. ^ Seagrave, John (December 11, 2002). "The Biogeography of the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)". San Francisco State University. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  15. ^ Niemiec, et al., p. 82
  16. ^ "Pacific Madrone Flooring". Sustainable Northwest Wood. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Madrone Wood Veneer Information". Wood River Veneer. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  18. ^ Niemiec, et al., pp. 81, 86


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 alterations when 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.[6]

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.[4][6][13] 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.[6]


The peeling red papery bark is distinctive

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.[13][14] Many mammal and bird species feed off the berries,[15] 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.[6][13] It is also important as a nest site for many birds,[13] 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.[16] An attractive veneer can also be made from the wood.[17] However, because large pieces of madrona lumber warp severely and unpredictably during the drying process, they are not used much.[5] Madrone is burned for firewood, though,[13][18] since it is a very hard and dense wood that burns long and hot, surpassing even oak in this regard.

In spring, it bears sprays of small, white, bell-shaped flowers.


This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[12]

The trees are difficult to transplant and a seedling should be set in its permanent spot while still small.[9] 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 to disease.


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.[6] One author lists their southern range as extending as far as Baja California in Mexico,[10] but others point out that there are no recorded specimens collected that far south,[6] and the trees are absent from modern surveys of native trees there.[11] However other Arbutus species are endemic to the area.

Distribution and habitat

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.[6] The exposed wood sometimes feels cool to the touch. In spring, it bears sprays of small bell-like flowers, and in autumn, red berries.[7] 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.[8][9] The stain lasts until the leaves naturally detach at the end of their lifespan.

Fruits of Arbutus menziesii



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