The Arbutus tree; also known as the Madrona or Madrone, is native to the western coastal areas of North America. It is very difficult to transplant and loves very rocky areas that face south in the sun. Their bark is a orange/red colour and it peels like the skin of a snake exposing a satin feeling trunk underneath. It is an evergreen tree that flowers in the spring and grows red berries in the fall. When the berries shrivel they grow barbs that they use to attach themselves to animals for transplant. These trees can grow up to 98 feet in ideal growing conditions. Their colours and curving trunk makes them a beautiful tree to sketch into landscapes.
First Nations people used the bark and leaves to soothe stomachs and sore throats. Often the bark was brewed into a tea to be consumed. Many birds feed off of their berries along with deer and bears.
They are made of such a dense wood and can grow relativity quickly that they do better after small forest fires that take out the Douglas Fir trees that block their sun. They can tolerate droughts as we have seen this summer but don’t fair well in an overly wet winter that leads to fungi growth on their leaves.
The best places to see them in Howe Sound is along the rocky shorelines that face south. Rent a boat or join the Sea Safari and check them out off Deeks Creek, the cliffs of Anvil, Lions Bay or Halkett Pt on Gambier Island.
Natures wonders are all around us, get out and explore!