Saturday, April 6, 2013

Madrone--Arbutus menziesii

Madrones are are blooming now. The flowers look like Manzanita flowers because they are in the same family. But Manzanita is a bush and Madrone is a tree, a GREAT BIG tree. It can become more than 60' tall and the trunk more than 5' wide. I always thought of them as small trees because of the specimens in cultivation that I saw were always small; like the trees at the UC Botanical Garden, which are only about 10-20' high with trucks less than a foot wide.

Madrone is native to coastal California, Oregon and Washington. It is a fast-growing broad-leaved evergreen. They don't like their roots disturbed and are therefore difficult to transplant.

Many birds and mammals eat the berries which ripen in the fall.  Humans have used this tree for medicinal purposes. The Salish people of Vancouver Island used parts of the plant to treat colds, tuberculosis and stomach ache. Several tribes of the Pacific Northwest protected the Madrone from fire because according to their myths it provided an anchor in times of flood. So this is yet another sacred plant.

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