Traditional & Cultural Knowledge

All content found below was created for informational purposes only. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always corroborate with multiple sources and seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Arbutus ARME also wishes to protect the cultural heritage and intellectual property rights of First Peoples while also developing accountability to racially oppressed communities. While we want to celebrate knowledge about the tree, we don't just want to talk about how humans use the tree. Learning about madrone is done by observing, listening, and following, and it takes time. Further, traditional ecological knowledge should not be easily accessed or taken without reciprocity and an understanding of the complex relationship between humans and the plants.

Below are some basics about the gifts madrone provides. The information is primarily derived from the North American Ethonobotany Database and other sources that are linked. These are historical AND contemporary cultural uses of the tree. We recommend pursuing knowledge from a trusted sources if these basics spark more interest for you.

Leaves & Stems

stomach aches and cramps, burns, smoke, containers, colds, utensils


food (fresh, boiled, dried or ground), forage, propagation, cider, decoration, fish bait


cuts and wounds, diabetes, tanning, fishhooks, carving, poles, tools, antiseptic, astringent, sore throats, firewood, furniture

Animal Forage | Deer browse heavily on leaves. Livestock may not prefer the leaves but may eat them in absence of other forage.

Burn Dressing | Rub crushed, fresh leaves on skin.

Colds, Coughs and Sore Throats | Add leaves to boiling water and steep (infusion) to make tea. Drink for colds and gargle as needed for sore throats.

Containers | Leaves used as coverings. Wood crafted into boxes and bowls, valued because of its texture and frequent "burls."

Decoration | Berries can be strung together for necklaces.

Dermatological Aid | Infusion of bark applied superficially to cuts and wounds.

Fruit & Beverage | Eat berries fresh, boiled, dried and ground as a condiment/spice. Cider is made by fermenting or steeping berries.

Fuel | This hard, dense wood can be "knotty" and difficult to split. It can be difficult to start, but burns very hot and long producing little ash.

Gastrointestinal aid | Chew few leaves for stomachache or cramps or make madrone cider by steeping the leaves.

Hunting & Fishing | Stems and wood fashioned into fishhooks.

Preservative | Bark is heavy in tannin. It is boiled and used for tanning paddles or other wood.

Rheumatism, Sore Muscles, Joint Inflammation | Rub crushed leaves on skin.

Strength | Chew leaves.

Tools | Young branches can be used to make utensils for eating.

Toys | Rattles and blocks made from wood. Dolls made from various tree parts.