My first close look at the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) was at Lithia Park in the town of Ashland, Oregon. Among the other beautiful trees of this well-known park, the Pacific Madrone was to me one of the most impressive. There is something truly magical about a dense stand of this broadleaf evergreen with its lovely red peeling bark. Since that time in Oregon, this tree has been one of my favorites. In addition to Lithia Park, Ashland’s graveyard has hundreds of Pacific Madrones scattered throughout the historic gravesites.
Pacific Madrone is a native of North America with its natural range from British Columbia to Southern California. You’ll typically find it in lower elevations in sunny and dry locations. It can reach up to 100 feet in height but is more commonly around 60 to 70 feet. The branches of this tree can twist and become quite sculptural. The leaves are dark green and shiny. Other features of this tree are its red berries and fragrant flower clusters. The berries are a strong temptation for wildlife and birds. Many birds also find this tree a comfortable place to nest. The fruit is edible for humans as well, but is not recommended to eat very many because it is said to cause stomach cramps. Pacific Madrone is a source of hardwood that provides a creamy sapwood and a pinkish to reddish heartwood. It can be quite durable and stiff and resists shock well. People have used the wood for making novelties, furniture, tool handles, flooring, and inlay ornaments, among other items.
Pacific Madrone likes well-drained soils and full sun, although it will tolerate partial shade. It can be difficult to transplant, so you’ll want to get a younger tree and be careful of the taproot when transplanting. Also, be aware that this tree is sensitive to pollutants, so you’ll want to plant it away from any source of contaminants. The peeling bark and occasional falling leaves require some degree of cleanup, so if you want a maintenance free tree, look elsewhere.
This site provided by the U.S. Forest Service has a lot of interesting facts and botanical info on the Pacific Madrone: Pacific Madrone Facts