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Madrone • Arbutus menziesii

madrone ©Ellen Mast

Description: One of the northwest's most strikingly beautiful trees, the Madrone is a broadleaf evergreen (60-100 ft.) with thick, green leaves and beautiful cinnamon-colored exfoliating bark. Madrone has tiny, bell-shaped flowers (spring), which attract honeybees and butterflies, including the Spring Azure. These are followed by edible berries enjoyed by many birds, including band-tailed pigeons, quail, flickers, varied thrushes, waxwings, evening grosbeaks, mourning doves, and robins. The madrone is also a host plant for the Brown Elfin and the Spring Azure butterflies. Sun/part sun, low water, extremely well-drained soil.

Lewis and Clark collected a specimen of Pacific madrone on November 1, 1805, near or below the present-day Bonneville Dam. Frederick Pursh wrote on the specimen's label, "A middle size tree with a remarkable smooth bark which Scales off in the manner of the birch;& red berries in clusters." On this day Clark wrote a remarkable description of the river habitat: "passed the Grand Shoote which is 1/4 of a mile long the water confined with in 150 yards passing over imince Stones with tremendious force & low mountain Slipping in on the Stard Side high on the Lard Side great numbers of Sea otters." Meriwether Lewis described madrone in his journal on December 1, 1805, near the mouth of the Columbia River: "the leaf like that of the small magnolia, and brark smoth and of a brickdust red coulour it appears to be of the evergreen kind."

madrone with peeling bark
madrone © Ellen Mast