Madrone 101

First Nations names: qaanlhp (Hul’q’umi’num) , x̱ax̱a’nal’a̱ms, (Kwak̓wala), kʷum kʷumay (Northern Salishan) , kwémkwém-ay (she shashishalhem), ḰEḰEIȽĆ (WSANEĆ), qʷuƛ̓əc, qʷuqʷuƛəc (S. Lushootseed). The trees features prominently in the origin story of the WSANEĆ people.

Family: Ericaceae also known as the heath or heather family, a robust family of flowering plants sometimes known to grow in tough conditions.

Genus: Arbutus is a genus of twelve species. Pacific madrone is the largest of the genus, and all species have characteristic flaky bark and red berries.

Species: menziesii is the Latinized name for the Scottish naturalist, Archibald Menzies, who collected plants during colonizing explorations in the Pacific Northwest with the Vancouver Expeditions. It was Frederick Traugott Pursh who named the tree in honor of Menzies in his 1814 work, Flora Americae Septentrionalis; or, A systematic arrangement and description of the plants of North America. That is why one will often see author abbreviation Pursh after the botanical name Arbutus menziesii Pursh as a "tag" or citation of the botanical naming.

Pronunciation: ar-BU-tus men-ZEE-see-i

Common name: madrone or madrona, comes from madroño after the Arbutus unedo or strawberry tree commonly found in Europe. Folks in Canada tend to use the name arbutus as the common name. The first European note of madrone was in the diary Missionary Juan Crespi during the Portolá expedition of 1769-1770 in the Californias.

The madrone range is the area where the species can be found. Common understanding of the madrone range is that it is relatively abundant along the jagged West coast of North America from southern British Columbia to Central California, although there are small populatations on the leading (North) and trailing (South) and edges of the range in Southern California as well as on the west slopes of the Sierra Nevada, Pacific Coast Range mountains. Most maps show a snapshot of the where the species is present in time and space although other maps may include areas where trees or communities may migrate with changing environmental conditions such as climate change.

Biogeographical map

This is the most common range map distributed by the United States Forest Service, based on observations and assumption about species presence.

view the map

Madrone Range

Example of range map of madrone in California, note isolated populations

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TreeSnap map

We are crowdsourcing madrone observations via TreeSnap to inform ourselves about the true range of the species

view the map

Myths about Madrone

They are all sick

Many native and non-native pathogens befall the tree due to a variety of natural and anthropogenic stresses. Cankers, lesions and browning leaves are outward expressions of various plant pathogens that transmogrify this already unique-looking tree. Sadly, the species is on the decline across its native range, but they are not all sick and dying. We see healthy trees and patches across the range of the species. If you are not a believer, take a look at the photos across the website. Read more about Diseases and Pathogens as well as Better Management Practices.

It is hard to grow

Some horticulturalists have refined some propagation methods that are specific to the species. We are long overdue to share this knowledge with each other – and always willing to learn more. Read more about Better Management Practices.

It is hard to transplant

We are pleased to be acquainted with many talented greenthumb folks, and our team and others have successfully transplanted plugs/seedlings into larger containers for later planting in greenspaces. Read more about Better Management Practices.

Nurseries don’t grow it

Maybe this is because of the reasons mentioned above…. If outside growers cannot provide, we can grow it ourselves – in the greenhouse, or in our backyards! Read more about Where To Buy.

If a tree is leaning, it is going to fall over

The species show a great deal of plasticity as they meander and grow and advantageously reach for available light. A little (or even a big) lean doesn’t necessarily mean the tree(s) will fail. Reputable arborists can properly assess risks associated with any leaner.

Don’t touch them; they’ll fall over

Damage to the thin protection of bark steeming from branch failure, mechanical equipment, or backing into it with your truck all open up madrone to infection from pathogens. It is best to minimize wounding. Read more about Better Management Practices.

They should be planted in the same cardinal direction that they grew in the nursery

Essentially, the North side of the seedling should face North. Our Western science brain wants to reject this idea. However, we are not sure where this idea came from. And, it can't hurt anything! Ping us if you have anything to share about this. Maybe it is more important that the West side faces West....