Arbutus menziesii is an evergreen tree with rich orange-red bark that when mature naturally peels away in thin sheets, leaving a greenish, silvery appearance that has a satin sheen and smoothness. In spring, it bears sprays of small bell-like flowers, and in autumn, red berries. The berries dry up and have hooked barbs that latch onto larger animals for migration. It is common to see madronas of about 10 to 25 meters (33 to 82 ft) in height, but with the right conditions trees may reach up to 30 meters (98 ft). In ideal conditions madronas can also reach a thickness of 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.4 m) at the trunk, much like an oak tree. Leaves are thick with a waxy texture, oval, 7 to 15 centimeters (2.8 to 5.9 in) long and 4 to 8 centimeters (1.6 to 3.1 in) broad, arranged spirally; they are glossy dark green above and a lighter, more grayish green beneath, with an entire margin. The leaves are evergreen, lasting a few years before detaching, but in the north of its range, wet winters often promote a brown to black leaf discoloration due to fungal infections. The stain lasts until the leaves naturally detach at the end of their lifespan.
Distribution and habitat
Madrones are native to the western coast of North America, from British Columbia (chiefly Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands) to California. They are mainly found in Puget Sound, the Oregon Coast Range, and California Coast Ranges; but are also scattered on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. They are rare south of Santa Barbara County, with isolated stands south to Palomar Mountain in California. One author lists their southern range as extending as far as Baja California in Mexico, but others point out that there are no recorded specimens collected that far south, and the trees are absent from modern surveys of native trees there. However other Arbutus species are endemic to the area. (Wikipedia) Photo credits: by Stephen Lea & Walter Siegmund CC by-SA 3.0.