Monday, February 06, 2006

Pacific Madrone

(Click this photo--taken at Fort Worden--to enlarge)
It occurred to us the other day that we live with trees all around us that are native and specific to the northwest. One of our favorite of those is the Madrone. It has a spectacularly smooth dark orange bark, which it sheds in pieces to reveal bright green underlayer; it has white flowers and bears red small red fruits; and it grows in fantastic twisting and sensual fashion. The madrone trunk and branches twist like arms and hands reaching around other trees and yearning toward the sky.
Close-up of the peeling bark
The Oregon State University website describes the Madrone this way:
Madrones tend to have irregular growth forms, sometimes putting out long bare branches with large clumps of leaves at the ends, especially if they're growing among other more aggressive trees where they need to twist and reach for the light. On rocky outcrops along some coastal stretches, you can find clusters of small madrones that have been stunted and gnarled by the wind. On the other hand, if they have little competition for space and little stress, they can also grow into a more classic shade-tree form with heavily leaved branches above a straight thick trunk.
What we especially love is that besides being beautiful the madrone attracts butterfly caterpillars; the flowers are a nectar source for bees, butterflies, and other insects. The fruits are eaten by small mammals and numerous birds. We have them in our front yard, and all along the road to our house. For us, it really doesn't get much better than that. It's a very cool tree.

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