Also known as the Pacific madrone, the Arbutus has distinctive reddish-brown bark, thick waxy leaves of 5-15cm in length and a beautiful twisted trunk that can grow to 30 metres tall. It can grow one metre thick at the base and is the only evergreen broadleaf tree in Canada.
RANGE & HABITAT
This tree is found from Mexico to southern Vancouver Island and mostly grows on sunny, rocky shores or outcrops. It is often found growing with douglas fir and usually grows within one and a half kilometres of the ocean. In B.C. this plant is found in the Georgia Depression ecoprovince.
The arbutus has white flowers in spring with bright orange-red berries in the late summer and fall. It grows a new layer of bark every year, peeling off the old layer. The new green bark can photosynthesize, meaning it can make its own food.
Bees are attracted to its sweet-smelling flowers. Crows, ravens, woodpeckers, waxwings, robins and other birds are attracted to its bright orange-red berries.
TRADITIONAL USES BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Arbutus wood has historically been used for walking sticks and its berries for decorative necklaces and beads. Arbutus bark and leaves have medicinal purposes and are used for colds, stomach problems and tuberculosis.
The wood of the tree is very hard and twisted, making it useful for small walking sticks and woodcrafts.
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
Government of BC Tree Book
Photo: Calypso Orchid