Glossy green leaves with a finely serrated edge  Peeling bar of a madrone trunk  smooth red bark trunks of madrones in forest

Arbutus menziesii- Pacific Madrone

At a Glance:

  • Family: Ericaceae
  • Plant Type: Evergreen tree
  • Distribution: west coast from British Columbia to California, normally found in Puget Sound, Oregon Coast Ranges, and California Coast Ranges, but can also be seen in the Sierra and Cascade Mountain Ranges
  • Habitat: most commonly found in our region on dry, rocky, wind-exposed slopes and headlands characterized by woodlands, meadows, and bluffs.
  • Height: can grow up to 25m-30m in cool, wet climates, but more characteristically up to 10m in the drier locations of western Washington.
  • Propagation: seed from red berries, develops hooks to latch onto wildlife for seed dispersion
  • Seeding Season: fall-winter
  • Leaves: evergreen, broad-shaped, glossy dark green above, light gray green below. Arranged alternately in a spiral, 7-15cm long, 4-8cm wide
  • Generation: perennial living up to 200 years or more
  • Bark: orange-red bark that peels back on older trees to reveal a smooth green-silver bark that is cool to the touch.

Restoration and Conservation

  • Bank stabilization for preventing erosion, particularly on bluffs and maritime headlands in our region
  • host to various moths, butterflies, and birds
  • Usually, the first to sprout after a forest fire, can be seen as a both a pioneer and late seral succession type in droughty locations

Ethnobotany and Plant Uses

  • The Straits Salish of Vancouver Island would sometimes cook the peeling bark with camas bulbs to color the bulbs pink
  • The Saanich used the leaves and bark as medicine for colds, stomach problems, post-birth contraceptive, and as an ingredient for a 10-ingredient medicine for TB and coughing blood
  • Fruits were eaten
  • Seen as a large source of hardwood in the timber industry


For questions regarding the EERC Native Plant Guided Tour, contact Sarah Verlinde-Azofeifa at