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Native Plant Guide

Information and Services for King County, Washington

madrone; madrona

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madrone grove
© Greg Rabourn
madrone grove (enlarge)
Madrone bark Madrone fruit madrona in bloom
madrone bloom madrone flowers

Arbutus menziesii

Evergreen Tree

Height: 90 ft.

Availability: Medium

Growing ease: Low

Moisture req.: dry

Exposure req.: sun - part shade


Plant description:

Beauty and the beast in one tree. In a native grove this tree can look sublime. As a single tree, attacked by disease, it can be a pitiful sight as the branches die one by one. This tree is difficult to transplant, even as a sapling. It doesn't seem tolerant of the urban environment. It seems to prefer a low ground cover for protection during the first year or two. It needs coarse, well drained, rocky soils. The leathery leaves are ovate and dark, shiny green above; paler green below. The fragrant flowers are a magnet for hummingbirds which can sometimes swarm a heavily flowering tree. Other birds love the bright red-orange berries that often last till Christmas.It is the incredible bark that makes this tree such a prize. In the early spring it looks like pale green human skin which slowly turns flesh hues and then tan. In the summer it becomes flushed with bright orange and red tones, turning a rich mahogany in autumn. Then it begins to crack and peel in fantastic shapes through the winter, revealing new skin in the spring. It is always changing and is best seen in view of a window or often traveled walkway.These trees prefer full sun and grow well on hill slopes or at the top of sharp drop-offs. They can be spectacular in the setting sun.

Keywords: birds, broad leaf (evergreen), butterflies, drought tolerant, fruit, red, upright, white

Articles that mention this plant: Native plants for fall color

Plans that use this plant:Marine (salt water) shoreline, Steep slope with dry sunny conditions