Pacific madrone is arguably one of our most captivating and recognizable native trees. The trunk and branches showcase patterns of exfoliating copper bark, exposing smooth olive to red wood beneath that is lusciously soft to the touch. It is endemic to the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascades - meaning this is the only place in the world that it naturally grows. Clusters of creamy white, fragrant urn-shaped flowers adorn the branches in spring and mature into bumpy orange-red fruits that persist until winter and provide striking contrast to the evergreen foliage and are attractive to many species of birds.
- Plant type/canopy layer: evergreen, perennial large tree
- Size at maturity: usually 20’ - 50’ tall, 20’ - 40’ wide
- Light requirements: full sun, part-sun/part-shade
- Moisture requirements: dry, well-drained soil
- Bloom time: April - May
- Growth rate/ease: very slow growth rate, difficult to grow.
- Wildlife support: blossoms provide nectar for hummingbirds, native bees, and other pollinators, foliage is a caterpillar host plant/larval food source, berries feed many bird and mammal species, including American robins, varied thrushes, band-tailed pigeons, cedar waxwings, northern flickers, quail, raccoons, squirrels, mule deer, and bears
- Native habitat/range: Coniferous and mixed forests, rocky meadows up to 1600 meters throughout that Cascade, Coast, and Siskiyou ranges, the Willamette Valley as well as parts of CA, WA and north to British Columbia. Portland Plant List - yes.
- Special features & uses: evergreen, drought-tolerant, wildlife favorite, edible, ethnobotanical uses, erosion control, hedgerow, windbreak
Gardening with Pacific Madrone: Madrone is difficult to establish and slow growing. But resist the temptation to plant an older or bigger specimen as the small saplings planted before winter rains are most likely to survive. It prefers sun and acidic well-drained soils and is entirely intolerant of wet soils. Its roots are also extremely sensitive to drainage changes, compaction, grade alteration, and other soil disturbance. Older trees are exceptionally drought-tolerant.
Eileen Stark provides a phenomenal in-depth description of Pacific Madrone on her blog HERE. Check it out!
Photo Credit 2: "File:Pacific Madrone Arbutus menziesii Branch Fork 2120px.jpg" by Original photo by and (c)2007 NaJina McEnany. Photo prepared by User:Ram-Man. Used by permission. is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5