Arbutus

Arbutus, also known as Madrona, Madrone, Pacific Madrone is a genus of at least 14 species of flowering plants in the family Ericaceae, native to warm temperate regions of the Mediterranean, western Europe, and North America. On the Pacific coast of USA and Canada, this broad leaf evergreen tree can reach heights of 90 feet (27 m).

Twisted Arbutus branches, Sooke Harbour, Vancouver Island, BC

Twisted Arbutus branches at Sooke Harbour, Vancouver Island, BC

Arbutus, still with last year's leaves, early March at Durrance Lake Vancouver Island, Canada Arbutus in bloom, early March, Patricia Bay BC, by the Victoria Airport Arbutus in bloom, early March, Patricia Bay BC, by the Victoria Airport Arbutus branches, Sooke Harbour, Vancouver Island, BC Arbutus, Mt. Douglas, Victoria, BC
Arbutus bark variety and characteristic bump Arbutus aged bark Arbutus, bark and characteristic bump Arbutus, smooth aged bark under rough layer Arbutus, old tree
Characteristic bumps on older trees Arbutus, smoother bark under rough Arbutus: colorful bark Arbutus bark, characteristic shedding Arbutus branch, scars from carved initials
Arbutus, Sooke Harbour, BC Sooke Harbour Arbutus, Vancouver Island Arbutus - exposed bark is smooth and soft, easy to scratch marks into, Patricia Bay BC Arbutus, Vancouver Island Arbutus berries, edible but contain high levels of tanin
Arbutus, Victoria Park, Vancouver Island, BC View of Victoria, BC and Washington, USA beyond Characteristic bumps on older trees Arbutus colorful bark Arbutus shedding outer layer
Older Arbutus, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada Older Arbutus, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada Trunk scars from carved initials Trunk scars from carved initials Arbutus bark variation, Mt. Douglas Park, Victoria BC
Fire resistant, hollow tree Odd growth on Arbutus, Sooke Harbour, BC Sooke Harbour Arbutus split from falling Sooke Harbour,odd growth Trunk scars from carved initials
         

 

Photos by Nikki Coulombe, info source: Wikipedia

The Arbutus was important to the Straits Salish people of Vancouver Island, who used arbutus bark and leaves to create medicines for colds, stomach problems, and tuberculosis, and as the basis for contraceptives. The tree also figured into certain myths of the Straits Salish. The fruit is edible but has minimal flavour and is not widely eaten. The berries have a high tannin content and are correspondingly astringent, they are more often made into a cider. Many animals feed off the berries, and deer will also eat the young shoots when the trees are regenerating after fire. The trees are also important as a nest site for many birds.
The timber distorts during drying and is not much used, but an attractive veneer can be made from it. Recently, it has become more popular in the Pacific Northwest as a flooring material due to the durability of the wood and the warm color after finishing. Mostly the wood is sought for its heating capabilities since it burns long and hot in fireplaces.
The Arbutus tree makes up part of the coat of arms (El oso y el madroño, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) of the city of Madrid, Spain. In the center of the city, Puerta del Sol, there is a statue of a bear eating the fruit of the Madroño tree. The image appears on city crests, taxi cabs, man-hole covers, and other city infrastructure. In Portugal the fruit is sometimes distilled (legally or not) into a potent brandy known as medronho.Conservation
Although drought tolerant and relatively fast growing, the Pacific Madrone is currently declining throughout most of its range. One likely cause is fire control: under natural conditions, the madrone 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. Since the arrival of Europeans in North America, fire suppression has resulted in a reduction of the range of the Pacific Madrone. Increasing development pressures in Pacific Madrone 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.

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