Arbutus menziesii

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USDA Hardiness zone: Zn6a -5º to -10ºF

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Arbutus menziesii

Pacific Madrone, iconic tree of the Pacific Northwest. Famous for its glossy, russet orange sinuous trunks, exfoliating bark, and round, evergreen foliage. In spring, clusters of white flowers are showy and turn into vivid red berries by autumn. These are loved by birds- especially western tanagers who will quickly strip a tree as flocks move from one to the next. Must be grown from seed and it must be transplanted when small. Just the way it is. Plant it in average, well drained soil. Water lightly through the first summer in subsequent years leave it strictly alone. Full sun is best- tends to wander towards the sun in shade. Underplant with low water natives such as Arctostaphylos, Ceanothus, Vancouveria. Slow at first it picks up speed after about 4 years- then it can grow 2′-4′ a year. Somewhat messy tree- loses older leaves in summer and the bark exfoliates all over the place too. Know this and live with it. Ours are raised from seed of trees native to our wholesale nursery site- so its a local strain. Pacific madrone is native from the highest mountains of southern California to southern British Columbia. It is the northern-most broadleaved evergreen tree (native) in North America. Oregon native plant.

*Cultural note:  Pacific Madrone is best established with a little attention.  Remember that the first year is the most important.  Madrones are adaptable to a host of soil types, thats why you see them in such varied places but err on the side of good drainage, a slope etc.  If the soil is dry when you plant do this, dig a wide area and loosen the soil. This will add oxygen and allow the water to percolate and get to the roots. (If the soil is already moist plant as per your regular routine.) Water after planting to settle the soil.  Let the plant go dry and depending on aridity and heat- you may have to water more in hot weather, less in cool weather. This is only relevant in the first summer after planting.  To water give the Madrone seedling about 1/2 gallon of water. This will be just enough to wet the root ball and keep the seedling from wilting. It should grow a little bit too.  if the plant shows signs of wilting this amount of water will also revive it.  Stop watering when cooler weather arrives (September) and winter rains resume. In subsequent years you should not water your Madrone at all. Do not amend the soil at all, native unimproved soils are what they are adapted to.  Remember they are native right here and are perfectly adapted, trust this adaptation. Also, do not crowd your madrone immediately, mulch it  lightly with fine bark and give it good air circulation for its first several years.

Arbutus menziesii and Pinus ponderosa benthamiana , native stands on the bluff over looking Swan Island, Portland.

Arbutus menziesii in the wild showing smooth orange barkArbutus menziesii seedling 10 years old

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