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Monday, April 23, 2012

Arbutus menziesii - Pacific Madrone

The native Madrone is a large evergreen tree, 30-100' tall with an oval shape, or if smaller it might be more rounded and multi-stemmed developing in full sun. One of the best features is the bark, a rich red-orange peeling to expose a greenish wood, very smooth and student have said that the wood feels cool to the touch. The trees are beautiful but they are hard to grow in our urban soils. They prefer soils with excellent drainage.

This is one from the city of Port Angeles. You can see how large it is. (Google Earth it, its on the 200 block of W 8th St near the intersection of S. Cherry St)

This is one at the horticulture department at Cabrillo.

Leaves evergreen, simple, alternate, 3 - 6" long, leathery, elliptical to oval, dark green shiny on the upper surface, grayish on the lower with entire margins.

Falling after the new leaves emerge in the summer. I have seen the tree from a distance and wondered what it was, with what looked like big fruit hanging in the canopy, only to get a close look and see old leaves.

Stems are generally smooth but can be hairy when growing quickly.

Urn-shaped flowers, small about 1/4", white, tip of flower flairing outward. Sometimes pink colorations. Borne in panicles at the ends of the branches. Blooms in the spring only.

Fruit is a fleshy berry, rough outside, 1/2" diameter orange/red. Several black seeds inside.

Beyond beautiful. Bark has so many different seasons, from smooth, to reddish peeling in paper thin strips that sort of curl up and fall off to reveal a yellowish brown bark, to old bark that becomes dark brown and no longer peels, but has loose scales.

You have to love a good disease, these trees get Nattrassia cankers that create a pretty cool looking stem. They don't seem to die, just a bit disfigured.

Even the roots are a beautiful red, though the tree has to be up rooted for you to see this.

Misidentification: Lophostemon has similar looking leaves but not the stem. Both have nice peeling bark, but the older bark is very different and of course the flowers and fruit are very different.

Semple Ave along with Redwoods, Ca buckeye, Tan Bark Oak, Toyon tree and lots of native shrubs.

Santa Cruz - Wilder St Park

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