The Mighty Madrona!
Washington is known as the “Evergreen State” because of it’s year-round greenery. Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Western Hemlock and Rhododendron, Salal and Oregon Grape are all evergreen trees or shrubs that keep our landscapes green even in deepest winter. One of the most spectacular evergreen trees is a tenacious native that decorates the rugged coastlines of the San Juan Islands – the mighty Madrona(Arbutus menzisii). Canadians call it Arbutus. In Washington State it is called madrona or madrone. Transient native American tribes named it madrona, which means “thief.” It’s root system is so deep and pervasive that it steals water and nutrients from other plants around it. This same root system allows the tree to survive in the harsh, windy coastlines and salty air common in the islands. Twisting red branches reach for sunlight on steep sandy/gravelly cliffs and banks, and make spectacular sculptures on rocky coastlines. It goes by many other names, however.
It is also called the “tourist tree” because it’s bark consistently turns red and peels!
It is called the “bartender tree” because it’s berries ripen and ferment on the twigs each October. When birds such as robins and starlings eat the berries, they become drunk and fly into walls and windows!
It is called the “refrigerator tree” because the smooth, reddish bark is very cool to the touch, even on the hottest summer days!
It is called the “elephant tree” because it’s base often resembles the foot of an elephant!
Living in the harsh environment where sea meets land, the mighty madrona adds variety and color to our spectacular San Juan Island coastlines!