Philip M. McDonald and John C. Tappeiner, II
Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii) is one of the most widely distributed tree species native to the Pacific coast. Named for its discoverer, Archibald Menzies, a 19th century Scottish physician and naturalist, the species is called arbutus in Canada, and madrone, madroñia, or madroño in the United States. The latter name is ascribed to Father Juan Crespi, chronicler of the 1769 Portola expedition.
Although examples of fine furniture and attractive veneer from madrone are common, utilization is far below potential and management is almost nil.
General: Heath family (Ericaceae). Pacific madrone is an evergreen tree that is native to the northwestern Coast Ranges of North America. The trees have single or multiple trunks with rounded, spreading crowns. Mature trees reach heights of 6m to 30m or more depending on environmental conditions. The alternately arranged leaves are oval, (7 to 15 cm long), thick, and have finely serrated margins. The leaf surfaces are glossy dark green above with lighter grayish green beneath. Leaves remain on the plant for two years before they are shed. The striking cinnamon red bark is thin and smooth. The bark on young branches peels in large papery flakes to reveal an attractive, satiny green surface beneath that darkens with time to deep red. In midsummer, the exfoliated bark, along with shed leaves in shades of red to orange, form a lovely colorful carpet beneath the tree canopy (Saunders 1923). Fragrant bell-shaped flowers appear in large, showy clusters at the ends of the branches during the spring, from March through May, but sometimes as early as January. The flowers (8mm) are yellowish-white to pink and consist of 5 fused petals. The fruits are loose clusters of bumpy, scarlet red berries (8 to 12mm) that contain a mealy pulp and about 20 hard seeds. The genus was named from the Celtic word “arboise,” which means rough fruit (Young & Young 1992). The early Spanish Californians named the tree “madroño” after the strawberry tree (Arbutus unido), which grows in Spain and other nearby Mediterranean countries (Parsons 1966). The edible fruits ripen from the early fall until December or January.
Distribution: Pacific madrone is native to the West Coast of North America and occurs from the Southern Coast Ranges of California to British Columbia in the north from 100 to 1500 m. Occasional populations are found in the Sierra Nevada Range at middle elevations. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Habitat: Pacific madrone is found on wooded slopes and canyons in oak, redwood, and mixed evergreen forests as well as in chaparral communities. The trees are commonly associated with other species and rarely occur in pure stands.
Madrone madroño, madroña, bearberry, strawberry tree
Arbutus menziesii is found in British Columbia extending south through Washington, Oregon, California and Baja California. The California range includes northwestern California, High Cascade Range, north and central High Sierra Nevada, central western California, the north Channel Islands (Santa Cruz Island), Western Transverse Ranges, San Gabriel Mountains and Peninsular Ranges.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
These trees are adapted to humid coastal sites as well as dry foothill slopes and canyons in areas with dry summers and mild winters. They grow on soils with low nitrogen and low moisture content.
Pacific madrone is a broadleaved, sclerophyllous, evergreen tree [1,29,40,88]. Heights range from 16 to 130 feet (5 to 40 m) [13,62,101,138], with diameters up to 2 to 3 feet (0.6-1 m) [7,63]. Single or multiple curved trunks support a broad, spreading crown composed of heavy, irregularly-shaped limbs . The bark is freely exfoliating, peeling off in large, thin scales. Once the outer bark is shed, the remaining bark has a smooth, polished appearance and a distinctive reddish color [13,101,111,138]. Color of young bark varies widely but darkens to a deep red with age; younger stems may range from green to chartreuse, while young trunks are frequently orange. Older portions of the bark become dark, brownish-red in color and are fissured [13,62,101]. The glossy, leathery leaves are arranged alternately on the stem [63,106].
The urn-shaped flowers are borne in showy, terminal clusters [63,91,106]. The fruit is a pea-sized berry consisting of mealy pulp and numerous seeds . At the base of its stem, Pacific madrone has a woody, globe-shaped, underground regenerative organ known as a burl [65,131]. The massive, wide-spreading root system is associated with ericoid mycorrhizae [97,105]. Once established, Pacific madrone is windfirm, drought enduring, and somewhat tolerant of wet, freezing conditions [40,89].
Puget Lowland Forests Habitat
Cope's giant salamander is found in the Puget lowland forests along with several other western North America ecoregions. The Puget lowland forests occupy a north-south topographic depression between the Olympic Peninsula and western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, extending from north of the Canadian border to the lower Columbia River along the Oregon border. The portion of this forest ecoregion within British Columbia includes the Fraser Valley lowlands, the coastal lowlands locally known as the Sunshine Coast and several of the Gulf Islands. This ecoregion is within the Nearctic Realm and classified as part of the Temperate Coniferous Forests biome.
The Puget lowland forests have a Mediterranean-like climate, with warm, dry summers, and mild wet winters. The mean annual temperature is 9°C, the mean summer temperature is 15°C, and the mean winter temperature is 3.5°C. Annual precipitation averages 800 to 900 millimeters (mm) but may be as great as 1530 mm. Only a small percentage of this precipitation falls as snow. However, annual rainfall on the San Juan Islands can be as low as 460 mm, due to rain-shadow effects caused by the Olympic Mountains. This local rain shadow effect results in some of the driest sites encountered in the region. Varied topography on these hilly islands results in a diverse assemblage of plant communities arranged along orographically defiined moisture gradients. Open grasslands with widely scattered trees dominate the exposed southern aspects of the islands, while moister dense forests occur on northern sheltered slopes characterized by Western red cedar (Thuja plicata), Grand fir (Abies grandis), and Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) communities.
There are only a small number of amphibian taxa in the Puget lowland forests, namely: Cope's giant salamander (Dicamptodon copei); Monterey ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii); Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum); Western redback salamander (Plethodon vehiculum); Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile); Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilla); Coastal giant salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus); Rough-skin newt (Taricha granulosa); the Vulnerable Spotted frog (Rana pretiosa); Tailed frog (Ascopus truei); and Northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora).
Likewise there are a small number of reptilian taxa within the ecoregion: Common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis); Western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis); Northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea); Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis); Northwestern garter snake (Thamnophis ordinoides); Sharp-tailed snake (Contia tenuis); Yellow-bellied racer (Coluber constrictor); and Western pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata).
There are numberous mammalian taxa present in the Puget lowland forests. A small sample of these are:Creeping vole (Microtus oregoni), Raccoon (Procyon lotor), Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris), Mink (Mustela vison), Coyote (Canis latrans), Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus), and Harbour seal (Phoca vitulina).
A rich assortment of bird species present in this ecoregion, including the Near Threatened Spotted owl (Strix occidentalis), Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Blue grouse (Dendragapus obscurus), as well as a gamut of seabirds, numerous shorebirds and waterfowl.
In its southern range in southwestern Oregon and California, Pacific madrone is often associated with dry foothills, wooded slopes and canyons [101,122]. In California, elevations range from 300 to 4,000 feet (91-1,220 m) . Pacific madrone is common above 3,900 feet (1,200 m) in the San Lucia Range of central California . A common component of coastal redwood and mixed-evergreen forests, Pacific madrone reaches greatest stature and abundance on dry sites at low to moderate elevations along the east slope of the Coast Ranges and in the Siskiyou Mountains [48,108,124]. At the southernmost end of its range in the Transverse and Peninsular ranges, Pacific madrone is found from 2,000 to 3,500 feet (610-1,100 m) elevation .
In its northern range, Pacific madrone grows at or near sea level and inhabits mountain slopes up to 3,000 feet (915 m) . Increased regional rainfall apparently allows Pacific madrone to occupy drier habitats than in mixed-evergreen forests . Greatest abundance is usually attained on sites unfavorable to conifer growth [13,42]. Pacific madrone is widespread west of the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington and is associated with relatively hot, dry lowland sites within coast Douglas-fir and western hemlock forests [43,148]. Pacific madrone communities on Sucia Island, Washington, are located on south-facing ridges where winds are moderate, temperatures somewhat high, and soil moisture low. These sites are protected from extreme wind by windward ridges, but abundant solar radiation strikes the slopes . On the Willamette, Mt Hood, and Siuslaw National Forests of western Oregon, Pacific madrone inhabits dry sites on ridgetops and south-facing slopes up to 5,000 feet (1,500 m) in elevation . Towards the northern edge of its distribution in southern British Columbia and northwestern Washington, Pacific madrone is generally restricted to areas along the immediate coast . The only broadleaved evergreen tree native to Canada [63,74], Pacific madrone rarely extends inland more than 5 miles (8 km) in southern British Columbia [43,63,74]. Sites consist of rocky bluffs along the seacoast; elevations do not exceed 1,000 feet (300 m) [54,63].
Soils: Pacific madrone grows on a variety of soil types, and tree health varies with soil type . Pacific madrone is most abundant on rocky sites, such as bluffs, that are "somewhat excessively" drained [2,13]. Soils supporting Pacific madrone usually exhibit low moisture content throughout most of the summer. Pacific madrone grows on glacial tills or shallow rocky soils in the northern portion of its range. Soils may also be fine textured, ranging from loam to clay loam. Towards the southern end of its distribution, soils are often derived from granite, quartz diorite, sandstone, or shale .
Climate: Pacific madrone is restricted to areas having mild oceanic winters; however, temperature and moisture regimes vary considerably throughout its range. Annual precipitation may range from 15 to 166 inches (380-4,220 mm), mostly as rain. Temperature extremes are from -6 to 115 Â°F (-21 to 46 Â°>C) [13,40,92,135].
Key Plant Community Associations
A review indicates that Pacific madrone is a major component of Douglas-fir-tanoak
(Pseudotsuga menziesii-Lithocarpus densiflorus)-Pacific madrone forests.
These forests are characterized by an
overstory of Douglas-fir with tanoak and Pacific madrone sharing the secondary
canopy in varying proportions. Pacific madrone is a minor component in a variety
of cover types, commonly intermingling with redwood (Sequoia sempervirens),
western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), Oregon white oak (Quercus
garryana var. garryana), and Pacific ponderosa pine (Pinus
ponderosa var. ponderosa) throughout its distribution .
In British Columbia, Pacific madrone grows with lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) .
The open woodlands of the San Juan Islands are characterized by Douglas-fir and
Pacific madrone in a fescue (Festuca spp.) matrix. Other tree species that may be found on such
sites include Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum), lodgepole pine, and
Oregon white oak .
Pacific madrone is a dominant species in the following vegetation types.
coast live oak (Q. agrifolia)-Pacific madrone/California
hazelnut-blackberry (Corylus cornuta var. californica-Rubus spp.)
interior live oak (Q. wislizenii)-Pacific madrone/poison-oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum)
California black oak (Q. kelloggii)-Pacific madrone-coast live oak 
Pacific madrone-Oregon white oak
Pacific madrone-tanoak 
Douglas-fir-tanoak-Pacific madrone Society of American Foresters cover type 
western hemlock-Douglas-fir-Pacific madrone 
Douglas-fir-Pacific madrone/pink honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula) 
Douglas-fir-Pacific madrone/American vetch (Vicia americana)
Douglas-fir-Pacific madrone/salal (Gaultheria shallon)
Pacific madrone-lodgepole pine/salal
In the interior valleys and hills of the Klamath Mountains and lower west slopes of the southern Cascades, average January temperatures range from 2° to 5° C (36° to 41° F) and average July temperatures from 17° to 25° C (62° to 77° F). Average annual precipitation varies between 760 and 890 mm (30 and 35 in). The average January temperature in the heart of the Pacific madrone range in the Sierra Nevada is 5° C (41° F), and the average July temperature is 22° C (72° F). Average annual precipitation is 1730 mm (68 in).
In the Coast Ranges of California, temperatures where Pacific madrone grows average 2° to 5° C (36° to 41° F) in January and 15° to 20° C (59° to 68° F) in July. Average precipitation varies between 1140 and 1650 mm (45 and 65 in) yearly in the north to 640 to 760 mm (25 to 30 in) in the south. Some fog usually is present throughout this region.
Within the total range of this species, temperature extremes are from -21° to 46° C (-6° to 115° F) and annual rainfall from 460 to 4220 mm (18 to 166 in) (30).
The Pacific madrone is a spectacular tree. Its showy bark, flowers and berries along with the gracefully crooked branches inspired Bret Harte to compose a poem about its loveliness (see Parsons 1966). But, alas, they can be difficult to grow. These trees should only be planted in very well drained soils in areas with non-alkaline water. Although generally started from seed, Pacific madrone may also be propagated from cuttings, grafting, or layers.
To start from seed, gather the fruits from the trees when they are ripe—generally from October to December. Soften the berries by soaking them in water and then separate the seeds from the pulp. Completely dry the seeds before storing. Dried seeds may be stored for up to 2 years at room temperature. For best germination, use seeds that have been stratified by pre-chilling for one to two months at 2 to 5 degrees C. Plant the seeds, in either spring or fall, in containers that have been filled with a mix of peat, sand, and gravel. Allow the seedlings to reach at least two feet in height before transplanting. Established trees can live up to 200 years or more and do not transplant well, so select a site where the tree can remain permanently. Choose a place with full sun to partial shade well away from lawns and other plants that require summer watering. Deeply irrigate the seedlings once a month during the summer months until established. Do not splash water upon the trunk or leaves while watering, as the trees are susceptible to fungus that resides in the soil. Once established, the trees will require only infrequent, deep irrigation during unusually dry summers. The trees develop an underground, woody organ called a ‘burl’ that re-sprouts if the stem is destroyed.
Fire Management Considerations
The exclusion of fire from some forests may lead to a decline in Pacific madrone populations. The importance of Pacific madrone in both the understory and in the canopy in 2 old-growth Douglas-fir-tanoak forests studied in Mendocino County, California, has been declining in the absence of fire. These forests were subject to frequent fires in the past, and the exclusion of fire has allowed tanoak to become dominant and shade out Pacific madrone. In the absence of major disturbance, there is probably little recruitment of Pacific madrone in most Douglas-fir-tanoak forests .
Prescribed burning: Pacific madrone seedlings establish readily following logging and burning of conifer-hardwood stands . Low-severity underburning may minimize Pacific madrone seedling establishment, thereby reducing the density of Pacific madrones capable of sprouting after future disturbances.
Control: McDonald and others  suggest that burning should not be used as a method of slash disposal in partially cut hardwood stands where Pacific madrone is managed for timber production. Instead, they recommend that logging debris be either lopped and scattered or piled .Wildlife management: Burning initially increases the palatability of Pacific madrone browse; sprouts are utilized for up to 2 growing seasons after fire [33,140].
Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire
Pacific madrone sprouts are tolerant of direct sunlight and develop well in the initial
postfire environment , allowing for rapid initial recovery.
Sprouts sometimes grow more than 5 feet (1.5 m) during the first postfire growing season.
After 10 years of growth on a site in the northern
Sierra Nevada, Pacific madrone sprout clumps averaged 22 feet (6.7 m) in height
and 10.2 feet (3.1 m) in crown width, with an average of 15 sprouts/clump
. Pacific madrone sprouts were measured for 3 growing seasons following a
high-severity summer wildfire in northwest California (see table below). At the end of the third year the
Pacific madrone clumps averaged 10 feet (3 m) in height and 8 feet (2.4 m) in diameter. Average
number of sprouts/clump was 13. The diameter of the parent tree affected the height and diameter growth
of sprout clumps and the number of sprouts/clump. The tallest Pacific
madrone sprout in a clump gained 0.59 feet of height for each additional inch of parent tree's diameter
|Pacific madrone sprout development after summer wildfire in |
northwestern California 
|Height of tallest sprout in clump (feet)||Crown diameter of sprout clump (feet)||Sprouts/clump|
|Time since burning (August 1951)||Average*||Range||Average||Range||Average||Range|
|1 year (November 1952)||4.7||1.6-7.6||4.5||0.8-8.9||17||1-47|
|2 years (October 1953)||7.7||3.2-11.5||6.8||2.0-13.7||16||1-47|
|3 years (September 1954)||10.1||4.9-14.8||7.6||2.8-16.5||13||1-32|
|*n=50 except for 3rd year where n=48|
A recently burned site at Fort Lewis, Washington, had abundant Pacific madrone seedlings
in addition to Pacific madrone sprouts .
The Research Project Summary of Kauffman and Martin's [68,69] study provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of many
species in mixed-conifer forests, including Pacific madrone. Pacific madrone occurred on
the Challenge Experimental Forest, which was 1 of 3 study sites. Sprouts and/or
seedlings were observed in postfire year 1
on two fall burns but were not found in postfire year 2 [68,69].
Plant Response to Fire
Sprout growth from top-killed trees is the primary mode of reproduction following fire . Following fires that kill aerial stems, Pacific madrone initiates rapid postfire recovery by sprouting from adventitious buds located on the burl [1,10,21,25,44,65,90,131]. Seedlings on the forest floor are either killed or put forth a few sprouts from a rudimentary burl. Many seedlings die because the growth rate of sprouts from top-killed trees is much greater, and the sprouts overtop the seedlings.
Fire favors Pacific madrone seedling establishment. Mineral soil provides a favorable seedbed, and lower canopy densities of the initial postfire environment are conducive to the successful establishment and growth of seedlings [105,132]. Availability of seed from crowns depends on fire severity . Any seeds stored in the soil seed bank are likely killed due to their sensitivity to heat . Off-site seed is also dispersed into burns by mammals and birds .
Broad-scale Impacts of Fire
Aboveground portions of Pacific madrone are very susceptible to fire damage [11,14,32,94,143]. Thin bark provides little insulation from radiant heat, which usually kills the cambium around the base of the stem . Even the thicker bark at the base of old trees shields them little ; however, it may explain how some Pacific madrones survive with only moderate damage after low-severity fire. Individuals that withstand fire have moderate susceptibility to secondary attack by insects or disease , which may result in mortality.
Immediate Effect of Fire
Fire top-kills most Pacific madrone [4,6,25] of all sizes, but they generally only die back to the burl [14,92]. Some large Pacific madrones may survive moderately-severe fire but sustain bole damage that leaves fire scars [25,31].
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tree with adventitious buds, a sprouting root crown, sobols, and/or root suckers
Crown residual colonizer (on site, initial community)
Initial off-site colonizer (off site, initial community)
Fire adaptations: Pacific madrone has low resistance to fire because of its thin bark [11,94]. Pacific madrone depends, however, on periodic fire to eliminate or greatly reduce the conifer overstory [14,141].
Postfire regenerative adaptations include establishment from prolific sprouts and from seed . Following fires that kill aerial stems, Pacific madrone sprouts from dormant buds on the burl [40,59,94,140]. The burl also serves as a source of stored carbohydrates for the sprouts, which rapidly occupy the initial postfire environment [65,86]. Repeated top-kill by fire encourages burl development, enhancing Pacific madrone survival [14,70].
Fire regime: Forests where Pacific madrone occurs were historically characterized by both understory and mixed-severity fires prior to fire exclusion. Oak-Pacific madrone-Douglas-fir and redwood forests, where Pacific madrone occurs, historically experienced understory fires at intervals between 5 and 25 years. Historic fires on some sites were caused mainly by Native American burning [11,12,78]. Remote, steep areas of the redwood type were also likely associated with a mixed fire regime . A redwood-Douglas-fir stand in northern coastal California had fires approximately every 50 years over the past 250 years . Fire typically burned through Douglas-fir-tanoak forests in northern California at 5- to 50-year intervals, killing small saplings and occasional canopy trees. These forests now have very infrequent fires . Douglas-fir-tanoak-Pacific madrone and Douglas-fir-hardwood cover types were characterized by a mixed-severity fire regime, with the former having less than 35-year fire-return intervals . In Douglas-fir/hardwood forests of the Pacific Northwest, the severity of fires varied widely, with many burning at low to moderate severity prior to settlement .
Stuart and Stephens  review fire regime characteristics for Douglas-fir-tanoak forests that Pacific madrone commonly occurs in. Presettlement fire-return intervals averaged from 10 to 16 years due to the warm, dry climate of inland locations and increased lightning activity at high elevations. In the North Coast Ranges, the primary ignition source was Native Americans. There is little information available on the size and severity of fires in Douglas-fir-tanoak prior to settlement. Areas subject to Native American burning experienced low fire severity. In other areas, fire severity varied spatially and temporally across the landscape, resulting in a complex mosaic of mostly multiaged stands of varying sizes. Fires in interior sites spread more extensively than those closer to redwood forests. Surface fires were common and were intermixed with areas that supported passive and/or active crown fires. In the Six Rivers National Forest, California, surface fires are a normal occurrence in all-aged, all-sized old-growth Douglas-fir-tanoak forests. In old-growth Douglas-fir-tanoak forests, the density of understory trees and shrubs has increased since presettlement times, creating greater vertical fuel continuity and increasing the likelihood that a surface fire could burn into the crowns. In young stands that have been logged or experienced stand-altering wildfire, fire-return intervals are now longer, and greater fire severity is possible because of increased fuel loading .
Pacific madrone is common in redwood forests. Fire in redwood forests typically burned in the summer and early fall with variable fire-return intervals. Wetter sites in the northern portion of redwood's range had longer fire-return intervals, ranging from 125 to 500 years. Drier sites in southern locales experienced shorter fire-return intervals, between 6 and 44 years. Some stands had intervals of 1 to 2 years due to regular burning by Native Americans. From 1950 to 2003, fire-return intervals for the northern, central, and southern redwood forests for fires larger than 330 acres (134 ha) were 1,083, 717, and 551 years, respectively. On average, redwood forests experienced moderate-severity surface fires that consumed irregular patches of surface fuel and understory vegetation. Occasional passive crown fires occurred at the southern and eastern edges of its range. Throughout the north-south range of redwood forests, mean fire severities were lowest in the coolest, wettest regions and highest in the warmer, drier areas. The current increase of available fuel and increasing horizontal and vertical fuel continuity may increase the chances for higher severity fires (review by Stuart and Stephens ).
White fir (Abies concolor) forests in the Coast Ranges of northwestern California, in which Pacific madrone can occur, had a presettlement average fire-return interval of 27 years, with a range of 12 to 161 years. The average fire-return interval has increased to 74 years since the exclusion of fire .
Fire scar, tree age, and basal area distributions were used to assess fire history in 3 Douglas-fir/hardwood stands in the Klamath National Forest, California (see table below). Fire-return intervals changed little from the presettlement era to the settlement era but increased in the fire exclusion era. The upper canopy of was dominated by Douglas-fir with scattered stems of sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana). The lower canopy was dominated by tanoak, Pacific madrone, and canyon live oak .
|Means and ranges (in years) of fire intervals for 3 Douglas-fir/hardwood sites in the Klamath National Forest, California, for 4 different time periods |
|Site 1 (n = 11)|
|Site 2 (n = 19)|
|Site 3 (n = 13)|
The following table provides fire regime information on vegetation communities in which Pacific madrone may occur:
|Fire regime information on vegetation communities in which Pacific madrone may occur. For each community, fire regime characteristics are taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models . These vegetation models were developed by local experts using available literature, local data, and/or expert opinion as documented in the PDF file linked from each Potential Natural Vegetation Group listed below. Cells are blank where information is not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval |
|Minimum interval |
|Maximum interval |
|Oregon white oak-ponderosa pine||Replacement||16%||125||100||300|
|Surface or low||81%||25||5||30|
|Oregon white oak||Replacement||3%||275|
|Surface or low||78%||12.5|
|Sitka spruce-western hemlock||Replacement||100%||700||300||>1,000|
|Douglas-fir (Willamette Valley foothills)||Replacement||18%||150||100||400|
|Surface or low||53%||50||20||80|
|Oregon coastal tanoak||Replacement||10%||250|
|Douglas-fir-western hemlock (dry mesic)||Replacement||25%||300||250||500|
|Douglas-fir-western hemlock (wet mesic)||Replacement||71%||400|
|Mixed conifer (southwestern Oregon)||Replacement||4%||400|
|Surface or low||67%||22|
|California mixed evergreen (northern California)||Replacement||6%||150||100||200|
|Surface or low||64%||15||5||30|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval |
|Minimum interval |
|Maximum interval |
|California oak woodlands||Replacement||8%||120|
|Surface or low||91%||10|
|California mixed evergreen||Replacement||10%||140||65||700|
|Surface or low||32%||45||7|
|Surface or low||98%||20|
|Mixed conifer (North Slopes)||Replacement||5%||250|
|Surface or low||88%||15||10||40|
|Mixed conifer (South Slopes)||Replacement||4%||200|
|Surface or low||80%||10|
|Mixed evergreen-bigcone Douglas-fir (southern coastal)||Replacement||29%||250|
| *Fire Severities: |
Replacement=Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed=Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects
Surface or low=Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area. [57,76].
More info for the terms: association, climax, hardwood, old-growth stage, stem exclusion stage, succession
Pacific madrone has moderate to low shade tolerance [13,16,64,74] and is considered an early-successional hardwood after timber harvest, fire [9,19,55], and other disturbances. Pacific madrone does not generally establish in shade and is usually absent from the understory of mixed-evergreen forests. A study of a Douglas-fir-tanoak forest in Mendocino County, California, revealed no Pacific madrone recruitment in the understory. Most shaded Pacific madrone died .
The level of shade tolerance can vary depending on Pacific madrone's north-south range. In the southern portion of its range, Pacific madrone seedlings need partial shade for establishment. As Pacific madrone trees age, the need for light increases, and older trees require top light for survival. In British Columbia Pacific madrone has low shade tolerance [74,92], so Douglas-fir dominates over Pacific madrone in climax stages .
Pacific madrone is likely more often subclimax than climax in successional status . Pacific madrone can be eliminated during the stem exclusion stage of succession, but it is possible for it to survive stem exclusion and persist into the old-growth stage . Pacific madrone has been documented in climax forests [15,121] and is classified as a "major climax species" in the western hemlock-Douglas-fir-Pacific madrone association on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington .
Pacific madrone is considered a fire-dependent, seral species in redwood stands of northern coastal California .
McDonald and Tappeiner  describe 3 reproductive modes relative to Pacific madrone: seedlings, seedling-sprouts, and root-crown sprouts. Seedlings originate from seed and their tops have never died back to the ground. Seedling-sprouts also originate from seed, but their tops are less than 2 inches (5.1 cm) in diameter at the ground line, and they have died back and sprouted at least once. The chances of Pacific madrone becoming a seedling-sprout are low, and seedling-sprouts rarely occur in shade environments. Root-crown sprouts originate from burls on top-killed trees more than 2 inches (5.1 cm) in diameter at ground line .
Seed production: The age at which Pacific madrone seedlings first produce fruit is not recorded in the literature. The minimum seed-bearing age for root crown sprouts is 4 years, but seed production occurs more commonly at 8 years . On the Challenge Experimental Forest, California, initial flower production occurred at age 4 on a "vigorous sprout", resulting in 62 berries. On another sprout clump, the tallest and most vigorous sprout produced 11 flower clusters at age 8 but produced few berries. Seed count ranged from 2 to 37 seeds/berry, with an average of 20 seeds/berry .
A 24-year study estimating seed crops of conifer and hardwood species on a Pacific ponderosa pine site on the Challenge Experimental Forest estimated that the average number of berries on 3 Pacific madrone trees was 49,000/tree, with a range of 13,000 to 108,000/tree during a "very light" seed year. The average number of seeds/berry was 20. Over the 24-year period, Pacific madrone produced 12 seed crops. Two were categorized as "medium-heavy", and 10 were categorized as "very light" .
On the Challenge Experimental Forest, berries are disseminated by a host of consumers, particularly the mourning dove and band-tailed pigeon .
Seed banking: McDonald  states that Pacific madrone has long-term seed dormancy and viability and stays viable for "scores" of years in the soil. When conditions are right (i.e., cool temperatures and adequate moisture), after-ripening is induced and dormancy is broken .
Germination: A cold stratification period is critical for germination of Pacific madrone seeds [58,82,91], because the seeds have strong embryo dormancy . McDonald  identified optimal stratification requirements for Pacific madrone seeds through a series of tests including cold, light, heat, acid, and stratification. Seeds failed to germinate after stratification at freezing temperatures for 24 days, while a 24-day stratification at above-freezing temperatures (36 Â± 2 Â°F (2.2 Â± 1.1 Â°C)) yielded 43% germination. Light was apparently unnecessary for germination of Pacific madrone seeds. Percent sound Pacific madrone seeds that germinated after heat, acid (sulphuric acid), and stratification treatments is provided in the table below. Stratification alone and acid and stratification significantly enhanced germination over those treatments using heat (P=0.05). No stratification caused poor germination. Mold was a constant problem in all treatments and in most cases became worse with longer stratification and germination periods .
|Percent of sound Pacific madrone seeds that germinated after 4 stratification treatments and 5 time periods |
Stratification period (days)
|Stratification||Acid & stratification||Heat & stratification||Heat, acid, & stratification|
In a laboratory study on germination, 2 Pacific madrone populations showed only slight differences in length of time required for stratification. Maleike and Hummel  collected seeds from a high-elevation and a sea-level source. The seeds were stratified at 39 Â°F (4 Â°C) for 0, 20, 40, 60, and 80 days. Percent germination increased with increasing time in cold stratification up to 60 days. After 60 days there was a decline in percent germination with both seed sources. Maximum germination for the sea-level seeds was reached at both 40 and 60 days. The seeds from the high-elevation seed source reached highest germination at 60 days .
Germination of seeds not separated from the berry was found, in a laboratory study, to be poor and intermittent. Berries were stratified in a refrigerator for 45 days and underwent subsequent germination tests. Seedlings did not readily disengage from the berry and seed coat, and there was heavy mortality from fungi. In field trials on the Challenge Experimental Forest, if the berries and seed survived long enough to germinate (i.e., not eaten by birds, rodents, etc.), many seedlings were killed by damping-off and root-rotting fungi . Fungi appear to be a major problem in natural and artificial regeneration of Pacific madrone.
Seed germination is discouraged by low light intensities under a closed canopy; therefore, Pacific madrone may not reproduce satisfactorily under dense forest conditions .
Seedling establishment/growth: Disturbance favors seedling establishment of Pacific madrone [82,92,132]. Survival rates of artificial Pacific madrone regeneration were observed on 3 types of Douglas-fir-ponderosa pine stands in the Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon. The 3 stands were differentiated as: clearcut, 5 to 14 years old; a young conifer-hardwood stand, 50 to 80 years old; and an old conifer-hardwood stand, 150 to 220+ years old. Seeds were sown in December at each location. One lot was sown on bare mineral soil protected by a cage, and 1 lot each on unprotected plots on undisturbed forest floor and bare mineral soil. Germinants began to emerge in early March, with more than 90% of the seedlings appearing within 1 month. Fewer seedlings emerged on unprotected plots than on protected plots due to predation of seed. Seedlings began to die immediately after emergence. Average survival at the end of the 1st summer was significantly lower (P=0.05) in old stands (5%-14%) and young stands (8%-12%) than in clearcuts (32%-34%). On most plots all seedlings had died within 1 year, with 1st-year mortality ranging between 90% and 100%. Causes of seedling mortality, in order of importance, were drought, litterfall covering small seedlings during fall months, damping-off fungi, invertebrate browsers (mainly slugs) in both young and old stands, and spring and fall frost, common in the clearcuts. At the end of the 2nd year, survival ranged from less than 1% to 3% in the young and old stands and after 2 and 3 years in the clearcuts, survival ranged from 5% to 12%. In this study, success of seedlings was dependent on disturbance to the forest floor and reduced litterfall, as indicated by the higher survival in clearcut stands . McDonald  stated that the bare mineral soil created by some silvicultural methods is conducive to seedling survival and noted little natural regeneration of Pacific madrone in an undisturbed pure hardwood stand.
Most Pacific madrone seedlings are found in partial shade on bare mineral soil . On recently logged redwood stands in northern California, Pacific madrone established in open environments on relatively hot, dry sites with thin, rocky soil . Seedling establishment is minor in stands with low light, heavy litterfall, damping-off fungi, and browsing invertebrates on the forest floor, all of which kill new seedlings [82,92,105,133,142]. High soil and air temperatures and frost heaving also kill Pacific madrone germinants on exposed microsites in clearcuts. Many Pacific madrone seedlings begin development in heavy organic litter in shade. The heavy organic layer inhibits the moisture-seeking root from penetrating to mineral soil, causing high mortality from fungi and drought .
Early growth of Pacific madrone seedlings is slow. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, California, length of 6-month-old seedlings growing in the sun was 1.6 inches (4 cm) for shoots and 4 inches (10 cm) for roots. Seedlings growing in a shady environment had shoots that were 1 inch (3 cm) and roots measuring 1.6 inches (4 cm). Two-year-old seedlings in the Sierra Nevada averaged 3.5 inches (9 cm) tall [82,92].
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
More info for the term: phanerophyte
RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Reaction to Competition
Trees 50 to 60 years old often have a well-developed root burl from which a spreading root system develops. Some of these roots extend into organic layers near the soil surface and others slant downward. Large trees, 61 to 91 cm (24 to 36 in) in d.b.h., can produce massive root burls 122 to 152 cm (48 to 60 in) in diameter. Uprooted trees indicate a system composed of deep, spreading lateral roots.
Life History and Behavior
Pacific madrone typically bears flowers in May, but may flower in March and April at low elevations [13,82,92]. It flowers from April to May on the Willamette, Mt Hood, and Siuslaw National Forests of western Oregon . In June, the second-year leaves turn orange to red and begin to fall shortly after the new crop of leaves has fully grown. Bark is shed all summer. Berry clusters ripen in autumn and persist into December . On the Challenge Experimental Forest, Pacific madrone berries mature from mid-September to mid-October . The table below gives generalized seasonal development of southern and northern populations of Pacific madrone.
|Generalized trends in the phenological development of Pacific madrone |
|Southern range||Northern range|
|Leaf bud swelling begins||February||late March|
|Flower bud swelling begins||March||May|
|Second-year leaves fall||June||June-July|
Low stumps generally produce more sprouts than high stumps. High stumps sometimes support undesirable stool sprouts that form on the edge of the cut surface or, less commonly, on the vertical portion of the stump between the ground and the top. Stool sprouts tend to become infected with heart rot at an early age and are more susceptible, to dieback and death than sprouts from the root crown. Stool sprouts that survive seem to grow well, but their longevity is unknown.
Pacific madrone sprouts grow rapidly. On a site of medium quality in the Klamath Mountains, 3-yearold sprout clumps averaged 13 members per clump, 3.1 in (10 ft) in height, and 2.3 in (7.6 ft) in width (22). In the northern Sierra Nevada on a good site, the annual enlargement of sprout clumps was measured in both a clearcut and a shelterwood. After 10 years, sprouts were taller, 6.7 vs 3.0 in (22 vs 10 ft); wider, 3.1 vs 2.1 in (10.1 vs 7.0 ft); contained more sprouts (15 vs 7); and possessed more volume, 52.1 vs 19.8 cm³ (1,840 vs 700 ft³) (12). In both locations, annual growth of 1.5 in (5 ft) on 2- to 5-year-old sprouts was observed for particularly vigorous members of a clump. Seven years after cutting and burning in southwest Oregon, dense stands of madrone sprout clumps spaced 2.7 by 2.7 in (9 by 9 ft) had a basal area of about 22 m²/ha (96 ft²/acre), 84 percent cover, and an above-ground biomass of 25,000 kg/ha (22,500 lb/acre) (9). This rapid early growth, both in height and crown width, allows Pacific madrone to dominate conifer and shrub associates for many years. It also means that understory species of grasses, forbs, and shrubs are quickly excluded from madrone sprout stands following disturbance (9), in spite of a leaf canopy that is more open than that of tanoak and giant chinkapin (Castanopsis chrysophyl1a) (16).
New information is available for forecasting site occupancy of Pacific madrone for up to 6 years after disturbance. It includes equations that relate width and area of sprout clumps originating from trees greater than 1 inch d.b.h. to size of parent stem and time since cutting (28), and equations that predict potential leaf area and biomass by parent tree diameter class (7).
To evaluate seedling establishment under more natural conditions, germinating seeds in a laboratory were buried in unsterilized sandy loam and no fungicide was applied. Damping-off fungi killed most of the seedlings, and after 11 months, only 6 percent survived. Trials of seedlings from madrone berries in the laboratory and field also indicated high losses from damping-off fungi.
A comprehensive study in the Santa Cruz Mountains of central coastal California (20) showed that fungus attack directly killed 28 percent of madrone seedlings. An additional 22.7 percent mortality, however, was attributed to mild drought preceded by crippling from root decay fungi. Most of the remaining seedling mortality was caused by invertebrates, chiefly slugs. These pests were particularly lethal to seedlings in deep shade. None of the 276 seedlings on shady plots survived.
Losses of seedlings on sunny plots in the semi-open forest were caused mainly by fungi. Only 2 percent of the seedlings on these plots survived to August 2 of the year in which they germinated. In southwestern Oregon, all Pacific madrone seeds germinated the first year after seeds ripened. However, seedlings began to die immediately after emergence and most had died after I year. Cause of death, in descending order, was lack of soil moisture, litterfall, damping off, and invertebrates. First-year mortality was 90 to 100 percent (29).
In general, Pacific madrone seedlings are not abundant. They usually become established in disturbed areas, along road cuts, on bare mineral soil at the base of uprooted trees, or in semi-open forests. In the northern Sierra Nevada, seedlings are established mainly along partially shaded road cuts or in small shaded openings. Occasionally, they become established beneath woody shrubs or small trees in clearcuttings. In southwestern Oregon, percent survival after 3 years, although low, was higher in clearcuttings than in young and old stands (29). The most favorable seedbed for establishment seems to be bare mineral soil free from all, or nearly all, organic material. The notable lack of madrone seedlings beneath madrone trees could be the result of toxic metabolites being formed as an end product of the interaction among fungi, duff moisture content, and invertebrates. Water-soluble leachates from senescent leaves of madrone have been demonstrated to inhibit germination and lower growth of Douglas-fir seedlings in the laboratory (3,31), a finding not substantiated in the field (17,31).
Early growth of Pacific madrone seedlings is slow. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, shoot and root elongation of 6-month-old seedlings in the sunny environment was 4 cm (2 in) for shoots and 10 cm (4 in) for roots; in the shady environment, 3 cm (1 in) for shoots and 4 cm (2 in) for roots. Two-year-old seedlings in the Sierra Nevada averaged 9 cm (3.5 in) tall.
Death of madrone seedlings from transplanting has been described as distressingly high, but ease of propagation from cuttings as fair.
Seed Production and Dissemination
Pacific madrone first produces berries at 3 to 5 years (23). In the northern Sierra Nevada, the dominant sprout in a 4-year-old clump produced 62 berries. Trees 60 to 160 years old produce heavy seed crops if healthy, but the age at which berries no longer are produced is unknown.
Freshly picked red and yellow berries from the northern Sierra Nevada were weighed and numbers of berries and seeds counted. Berries numbered 1,390 to 2,490/kg (630 to 1,130/lb), and seeds 434,310 to 705,470/kg (197,000 to 320,000/lb) (23).
Pacific madrone berries are disseminated by gravity and consumers. Because the berries are heavy, they fall directly beneath tree crowns, generally into a thick layer of tough leathery leaves. They do not bounce or roll far. Animals, however, often carry the berries farther away from tree crowns. Madrone berries are prized as food by birds, rodents, deer, and wood rats. At least five species of birds, especially the mourning dove and band-tailed pigeon, devour berries. More than 17 percent of this pigeon's November diet and 11 percent of its December diet were madrone berries. Stomach analysis of one pigeon indicated that it had eaten 111 berries - so many that it could not fly (25). In the northern Sierra Nevada, snap traps baited with a single red berry caught more white-footed deer mice than those with peanut butter and wheatflakes (12).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Arbutus menziesii
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Arbutus menziesii
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).
Pests and potential problems
Insect pests include aphids, caterpillars, woodborers, and Madrone psyllid. The trees are susceptible to several fungal infections, which cause leaf diseases, root rot, and crown rot (Labadie 1978). Pacific madrone is also affected by “sudden oak death” caused by the introduced fungus, Phytophthora.
To keep trees healthy, apply a thick layer of mulch to the root zone area beneath the crown and do not garden or compact this area in any way, avoid frequent irrigation, prune only from June to September (when the fungus and insects are less active), and fertilize if the tree shows signs of deficiency (Švihra et al. 2001).
Pacific madrone can reduce conifer growth on previously logged or burned sites and is often
considered an undesired competitor [47,48,70,95,107]. The sprouts can reach up to
12 feet (3.7 m) in 3 growing seasons and are capable of creating dense brushfields,
hindering conifer establishment [47,48,70]. Control of Pacific madrone is often
needed to promote growth of more
"valuable" trees such as Douglas-fir . Herbicide
applications are a commonly used method to set back Pacific madrone sprouting.
Young sprouts are susceptible 2,4-D [28,47,48,70]. Cut-surface applications
of herbicides gave acceptable control for 10 years following
application. Ten years after treatment, the
Douglas-fir site not receiving herbicide control had a mean basal area of 7.2 cmÂ². Basal growth
of Douglas-fir receiving the benefit of overstory control increased between 260% and 451%,
depending on the herbicide used . The number of postharvest sprouts
of Pacific madrone can be reduced by choosing what season cutting
is done. More sprouts appeared after April cutting than
February or July cutting. At times, Pacific madrone control may be needed to increase forage production .
In the past, leaching from Pacific madrone litter was thought to be allelopathic.
In a study by Rose and others , root growth of Douglas-fir seedlings was
not inhibited by Pacific madrone litter . Excellent natural regeneration of
Douglas-fir often occurs under Pacific madrone canopies, as noted by Minore ,
but the effects of Pacific madrone duff on Douglas-fir regeneration
are not clear. There were no significant differences in conifer regeneration, growth, or cover
of associated species among seedbeds of Pacific madrone duff, conifer
duff, or mineral soil during 10 growing seasons. If Pacific madrone litter does affect Douglas-fir regeneration, it
is because of other influences , possibly the reduction in mycorrhizal tips on
Douglas-fir seedling roots .
Pacific madrone has low resistance to disease and is
host to many pathogens that may lead to tree mortality. Pacific madrone can suffer from
foliar diseases caused by a variety of fungal species
and is susceptible to heart rot, butt rot, and stem cankers . A fungal leaf blister disease caused by
Exobasidium vacinii occurs on
Pacific madrone leaves. This disease is not thought to significantly reduce tree growth, but
it does reduce the aesthetic value of the tree. Phytophthora cactorum is a lethal
canker disease of Pacific madrone that results in root and butt rots [23,136].
All ages and sizes of Pacific madrone are susceptible to dieback and mortality from
Arbutus canker, a disease caused by the fungus Nattrassia mangiferae. The fungus infects the phloem and
vascular cambium and causes shoot blight. Greater
weakening of the trees through defoliation is caused by a secondary opportunistic
pathogen, Fusicoccum aesculi, which
causes dieback and gives the limbs and twigs a burned appearance. The branches and
terminal buds that are killed by fungi are unable to produce more foliage.
The tree does sprout from dormant buds on the burl and grows new shoots,
which are often killed by N. mangiferae .
Pacific madrone is affected by Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum). Sudden Oak
Death causes a variety of foliar and branch symptoms,
significant dieback, and mortality [41,45,46,102,114,115].
The madrone canker (Botryosphaeria dothidea) greatly reduces seed
production and causes dieback and death of Pacific madrone [91,92].
Annosus root rot can cause mortality to Pacific madrone .
For an extensive list on the fungal pathogens that effect Pacific madrone, see
Many Pacific madrones were sampled
around the Seattle/Puget Sound area to gauge the effect of urban development and disturbance
and whether they facilitated disease transmission and tree demise. Thinning stands, soil loss
and compaction, and a host of urban impacts increased susceptibility to disease.
Dense stands of Pacific madrone were less infected, and it was predicted that an
increase in the proportion of seriously diseased trees would occur if forest stands
were broken up .
Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) and gorse (Ulex europaeus) are invasive, nonnative plant
species that compete with native forest vegetation
for space, nutrients, and water. They are a threat to the sustainability of
Canada's rarest forest ecosystem, the Oregon white oak-Pacific madrone ecosystem on southeastern
Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands .
Pacific madrone is a prolific seed producer, which produces seed every year from the age of three to five years. One pound of seeds will produce approximately 1,000 plants (McMurray 1989). However, seedlings grow slowly and are highly susceptible to mortality.
Pacific madrone has been declining within its range in the Pacific Northwest in both urban and managed areas over the last 20 years (Bergendorf & Chalker-Scott 2001). The exact causes of the decline are unknown, but probably do to a combination of factors including soil compactions, fire suppression, drought, and introduced diseases.
In areas managed for conifer timber production, Pacific madrone has been considered a “weedy” tree species. This is because it can out-compete replanting of timber species because of its ability to resprout from its stump or burl after disturbance. Interestingly, there is some evidence that Pacific madrone can facilitate growth of Douglas fir at some sites (McMurray 1989).
In natural areas, the situation is reversed from that of timber production areas. Pacific madrone depends on periodic fire to reduce the shading resulting from the closing conifer overstay. Fire suppression causes Pacific madrone to be out-competed by species that can better tolerate shade. Currently Pacific madrone is declining in many of these areas due to infrequent fires and other factors including drought, insects, and pathogens.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Other uses and values
Despite its regular shedding of both bark and leaves, Pacific madrone is a highly ornamental species, prized for its crooked beauty, colorful bark, showy flowers, and brightly colored fruits [33,40]. Trees are cultivated for landscaping in both the United States and Europe [91,140]. Pacific madrone is a well-known bee plant [13,33]. Past commercial uses of Pacific madrone included utilization of the bark for tanning leathers and the wood for making charcoal for gunpowder [91,140].
Historically, West Coast tribes ate Pacific madrone berries and fashioned eating utensils from the bulbous roots [13,56]. The leaves have been reported to possess medicinal properties . Fruit of Pacific madrone can be eaten raw, boiled, or steamed. Berries can be stored for a long time if boiled and dried .
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
Pacific madrone has excellent value for erosion control and slope stabilization [93,103]. It was an important component in a tree community along Magnolia Bluff, Seattle, Washington, that played an important role in preventing more serious landslides along the bluff in 1995 and 1996 .
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Pacific madrone is an important component of cavity-nesting bird habitat in Douglas-fir forests of northwestern California [108,109]. Large Pacific madrone trees are susceptible to heart rot, making them desirable for cavity-nesting birds .
Pacific madrone typically grows with mixtures of evergreen and deciduous hardwood species. Mixed stands are highly diverse in structure and composition and provide habitat for numerous wildlife species [89,108].
Palatability/nutritional value: Palatability of Pacific madrone foliage ranks from low to moderately high, depending on conditions. The mature leaves are almost always neglected by browsing animals, whereas the young leafy sprouts are eaten by big game, domestic sheep and goats, deer, and occasionally cattle, when there is a shortage of more palatable vegetation [33,53,113,122]. Pacific madrone leaves provide forage for the dusky-footed woodrat . Cattle and deer browse the seedlings . In California, the Columbian black-tailed and California mule deer browse twigs and foliage [81,116]. Pacific madrone is given a browse rating of fair to useless for mule deer, poor to useless for cattle, domestic sheep and goats, and useless to horses in California .
In British Columbia, Pacific madrone is a high-importance winter forage plant for Sitka black-tailed deer, of moderate importance for Roosevelt elk, and of low importance for white-tailed deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain elk, moose, and caribou . Leaves are eaten by Columbian black-tailed deer on Vancouver Island, British Columbia; on rock-bluff communities where Pacific madrone is abundant, it is a major food species during the winter .
Pacific madrone berries are an important food for deer, birds, and other small mammals because they are produced in large quantities and may persist on the tree in winter, when alternative food sources are limited [33,58,122]. The berries are an important food for the dark-eyed junco, fox sparrow, varied thrush, band-tailed pigeon, quail, and long-tailed chat [13,52,81,125].
Cover value: Mixed stands of hardwoods and conifers in which Pacific madrone occurs provide thermal, hiding, and escape cover for big game and small mammals, and perching sites for a variety of bird species [24,89,118]. Both open-nesting and cavity-nesting birds utilize Pacific madrone. Preliminary research on cavity-nesting species within mixed-evergreen forests in northwestern California indicates that Pacific madrone is selected as a nest tree at a higher rate than its availability would suggest. Trees greater than 12 inches (30 cm) in DBH are an important habitat component for primary cavity-nesting species such as the red-breasted sapsucker and hairy woodpecker . Secondary cavity nesters such as the acorn woodpecker, downy woodpecker, mountain chickadee, house wren, and western bluebird also use Pacific madrone.
Ethnobotanic: In his diary of the Portolá expedition of 1769, Pedro Fages (1937:59) lists madrone as one of the foods of the Salinan. The Salinan, Miwok, Pomo, and other California tribes have long used the berries of Pacific madrone for food and to make cider. Berries within reach were hand picked and placed into baskets. The higher branches were shaken or hit with a long stick to knock off the berries into a basket held below or onto a cleared area of ground beneath the tree. The gathered berries were eaten fresh, made into cider, or cooked and dried for later use. Fresh berries were eaten in small quantities (Bocek 1984) probably because the high tannin content makes them astringent. The Miwok chewed the fresh or dried berries for flavor but did not swallow them (Barrett & Gifford 1933; Moerman 1998). Most often, the berries were used to make unfermented cider. The berries were first pounded into a course meal. The meal was placed into a straining basket, which was placed over another basket that was so tightly woven it could hold water. Water was poured into another watertight basket in which rocks, heated in the coals of a fire, were added. The rocks were constantly stirred to keep the basket from burning. The heated water was then poured over the meal until the entire flavor was extracted from the berries.
Berries were strung to make necklaces, and leaves and berries were used as decorations (Moerman 1998). The berries were also used as bait to catch steelhead.
The Miwok and the Cahuilla chewed the leaves to treat cramps and stomachaches (Barrett & Gifford 1933; Bean & Saubel 1972). Many tribes used an infusion of madrone bark to treat sores on the skin. The Pomo made a tannic tea from the bark that was used to wash sores, but not poison oak (Goodrich et al. 1980). However, it is probable that the Salinan taught the Padres at Mission San Antonio de Padua how to use the berries and leaves of Pacific madrone and the related manzanita to make a wash used for treating poison oak (Heinsen 1972). Bark tea was drunk to treat colds and sore throats. Pomo women used an infusion of the bark as an astringent beauty wash to close the pores and soften the skin on their faces.
Wildlife: Pacific madrone trees provide edible berries and habitat for many bird species including robins, cedar waxwings and bandtailed pigeons, varied thrush, and quail. The trees provide perches and nesting places for many bird species. Cavity nesting birds that utilize Pacific madrone are red-breasted sapsuckers, woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, mountain chickadees, house wrens, and western bluebirds (McMurray 1989). Mule deer, raccoons, ringtails, and bears eat the berries. Mule deer do not generally browse on mature leaves except during times of scarcity of other foliage. However, after fire the plants will sprout up with new shoots that are eaten by mule deer as well as domestic sheep, goats, and cattle. The flowers attract bees.
Erosion control: Pacific madrone can prevent erosion in sites that experience frequent disturbance. The plants have a widely spreading root system and they quickly reestablish after disturbance by re-sprouting from the stump or underground burl (McMurray 1989).
Other: The dense, fine-grained, wood is heavy and brittle. It has been used for flooring and cabinets but is generally unsuitable for use in construction because it does not dry uniformly and can crack and split. Pacific madrone does make a beautiful veneer and is used for pulp and firewood. Charcoal made from madrone wood has been used in the past as a component in gunpowder (Parsons 1966). The bark was sometimes used for tanning leather.
It is also known as the madroño, madroña, or bearberry. The name "strawberry tree" (A. unedo) may also be found in relation to A. menziesii. In the United States, the name "madrone" is used south of the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon and Northern California and the name "madrona" is used north of the Siskiyou Mountains, according to the "Sunset Western Garden Book". The Concow tribe calls the tree dis-tā’-tsi (Konkow language) or kou-wät′-chu. In British Columbia it is simply referred to as arbutus. Its species name was given it in honour of the Scottish naturalist Archibald Menzies, who noted it during George Vancouver's voyage of exploration.
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. The exposed wood sometimes feels cool to the touch. In spring, it bears sprays of small bell-like flowers, and in autumn, red berries. 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. The stain lasts until the leaves naturally detach at the end of their lifespan.
Distribution and habitat
Madronas 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. One author lists their southern range as extending as far as Baja California in Mexico, but others point out that there are no recorded specimens collected that far south, and the trees are absent from modern surveys of native trees there.
The trees are difficult to transplant and a seedling should be set in its permanent spot while still small. Transplant mortality becomes significant once a madrona 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.
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. Many mammal and bird species feed off the berries, 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. It is also important as a nest site for many birds, 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. An attractive veneer can also be made from the wood. However, because large pieces of madrona lumber warp severely and unpredictably during the drying process, they are not used much. Madrone is burned for firewood, though, since it is a very hard and dense wood that burns long and hot, surpassing even oak in this regard.
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. 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.
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.
- 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. GRIN (April 25, 2003). "Arbutus menziesii information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
- Chesnut, p. 406
- McDonald, Philip M.; Tappeiner, II, John C. "Pacific Madrone". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
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Names and Taxonomy
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