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Woody > Arbutus > Arbutus menziesii > Arbutus menziesii

Arbutus menziesii

Pacific Madrone

Origin:  Native to western, coastal areas of British Columbia, Canada to Southern California.
            Mike's Opinion

this is Mike


The first time I saw this tree was in a photo my aunt had taken on one of her many walks in the coastal forests of British Columbia. The reddish-orange peeling bark, and large green leaves caught my eye and I had to know what species of plant it was. I believe it would make a very interesting focal point in a rock garden or landscape with accents playing off the vibrant colours that this tree has to offer. - Danica Renée Malmo

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Tree (evergreen), Shrub (evergreen)
USDA Hardiness Zone
Canadian Hardiness Zone
6b - 8a
RHS Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
-18 - (-1)
Temperature (°F)
6 m - 40 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
Arbutus menziesii is a broadleaf evergreen shrub or large tree with showy reddish-orange peeling bark and twisted branching.
This eye-catching tree plays a very important role in the landscape. It can be used as an ornamental landscape tree or can be trained as a bonsai. Its sweet-smelling flower nectar are a food source for the Rufous hummingbird, as well as bees. It also provides a nesting site for swallows and the berries are eaten by many other bird species. In Vancouver and Saanich, British Columbia, Canada a permit needs to be acquired to remove Arbutus menziesii because they are a protected species.
Full sun is important, but this tree is not picky about soil type or pH. However, the Pacific Madrone does not tolerate over watering and prefers dryer media. It is wise to choose an ideal location carefully as transplanting is precarious and often leads to decline.
The shape is irregular, upright, and open.
ID Characteristic
It has thick glossy green leaves, peeling bark that is reddish-orange and open twisted branches.
Prone to Aphids, and Arbutus leaf spot, which eventually leads to loss of stems, as well as madrone canker.
Found in hot, dry, rocky regions of coastal western North America, it is generally found along the edges of forests and recently cleared land. It can also be found in forests of conifer and Quercus species. An ongoing study shows that Arbutus menziesii may have a relationship with the mycorrhizae found living in the soil of Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir).
Bark/Stem Description
Branches are twisting and irregular and new growth is green turning red with age. Older bark is a rusty orange, shedding to reveal a contrast of very smooth greenish bark beneath. Bigger trees have brown, scaly bark at the base of the trunk.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
Leaf buds are green, pointed, and have many scales, with the 8 mm terminal bud being larger than the laterals. Flower buds have a reddish hue.
Leaf Description
Pacific Madrone is an evergreen with oval, glossy, dark green leaves that are lighter underneath. Margins are entire or serrate on younger trees. Leaves are 7-12 cm in length, 2-5 cm wide, smooth, thick, in an alternate arrangement with branched veins. Older leaves turn reddish-brown and shed every other year.
Flower Description
Flowering time is in early spring, from mid March to June. Terminal pinnacles are 10-15 cm in length, with dense, off-white, scented, 5 petal flowers that are 60 mm. Flowers are vase-shaped and primarily pollinated by bees.
Fruit Description
Round fruit emerges green and matures to 85 mm, with approximately 20 seeds per fruit. The colour changes from yellow to a strawberry red as it ripens in October to November. They have a rough texture and can remain on the tree for up to a month after ripening.
Colour Description
Peeling bark is a rusty- orange in colour that reveals green smooth bark beneath. Leaves are dark green, fruit is yellow, maturing to strawberry red and flowers are off white.
Texture Description
Texture is medium year-round.
Starting Arbutus menziesii from seed is the most successful way of propagating. Ripe fruit needs to be cleaned then given a 40-60 day 4°C cold stratification, which is necessary to allow for up to a 90% germination rate. Seeds should be in damp peat or in a moist paper towel at this time. After sowing seeds germinate takes as little as 10 days, seedlings can be transferred to nursery containers. During hardening off many seedlings and older plants can succumb to fungus, so grower should be prepared to be left with a small percentage compared to plants originally planted. Transplanting in colder months can help with fungus. In addition, established transplanted trees have a very high failure rate. Germination in the wild is also very low.
Ethnobotanical Uses (Disclaimer)
Native Americans use the bark for tea to help with colds and stomach issues. Berries could be made into cider, used as jewellery or even bait for catching trout. Wood is beautiful and can be worked with but is said to be difficult.
Dirr, M. (2009). Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.Champaign: Stipes Publishing L.L.C. Knopf, A. (2019). Trees of North America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House LLC.