Posted by: atowhee | July 10, 2014


Those of us who live on the Pacific Slope are neighbors to many fine trees. There are the coast redwoods, tallest living thing on earth today. They love fog and pass the centuries get ever taller. The occasional fire makes little impression. The average few-hundred year old redwood will make you feel very small indeed. Here in the Klamath Knot we have more species of evergreen than anywhere else on earth, from western juniper to towering ponderosa. In northern California you get oaks from the evergreen live oak to the stately valley oak. We even have a dryland willow here in southern Oregon, the scouler willow. But of all our barky neighbors, none intrigues as much as the madrone.
Its wood is very hard but has little use beyond the fireplace as it is prone to crack and splinter as it dries.
And this time of year you can stand near a madrone and hear it. Not wind through the leaves. Not buzzing or fizzing of insects, this is the tree making soft sounds all by itself.
The madrone’s outer layer of bark dries, cracks, kirnkles and then rolls into little tubes and falls off onto the grouknd. Each step of this process on a hot dry day gives off a soft sound like a small crackling flame.

P2070260 (1280x960)
As it peels off th eouter layer the upper branches and trunks of the madrone are a smooth reddish-brown.
Though a broadleaf tree the madrone is evergreen in that it keeps leaves all winter. Right now madrone are shedding leaves just as they shed their outer skin. In late, dry summertime the madrone begins to drops leaves but never becomes bare limbed. P2070259 (1280x960)
The madrone is not given to straight trunks nor great height. it is found near the coast from southern California north into British Columbia.
APRIL 19 004

Arbutus menz.
The madrone gets its Latin name from Archiblad Menzies. Arbutus menziesii. Dr. Menzies was the physician and naturalist on Captain Vancouver British expedition along the Pacific Coast of North America in the late 19th Century. Many new plant and animal discoveries were made by him on that voyage. Menzies is also commemorated in the Latin names of the Douglas-fir and false azalea. He was the first European to note the redwood but later scientists described and named it.


  1. Great description of a very interesting tree!

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