Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Arbutus menziesii - Arbutus


Food Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses



  • Arbutus procera [PFAF]

General: Broadleaf Tree.(IFBC)[E-flora] 6-30m tall.Hitchcock&cronquist Old bark peeling in long strips.HNW Bark smooth, chartreuse(pale green/yellow) in color, turning deep red to dark brownish red. Hitchcock&cronquist Hardwood [Leadem FSSB]
Lifecycle: Evergreen.PWOBC Though the leaves live for two years before they turn red and fall.[Berries]
Flowers: corollas white or pinkish, urn-shaped.(IFBC)[E-flora] 1/3 inch and in long, drooping clusters.[Berries]
Fruits: Maturing to red or orange. 1/2 inch across. [Berries] "...covered with small bumps".PWOBC "20 hard, angled seeds" per fruit (average) Leadem FSSB
Leaves: Alternate, evergreen, leathery.(IFBC)[E-flora] Elliptical, shiny and dark green.[Berries]
Habitat: Dry open forests and rocky slopes.(IFBC)[E-flora]
Range: "common in extreme SW BC"(IFBC). "Southwestern British Columbia south to Baja California."[E-flora] Central Sierra Nevada to 6,000 feet. [Berries] "Typically found in coastal areas of northern California, Oregon, offshore islands of Washington..." [Meuninck EWPUH]
Status: Native.(IFBC)[E-flora]
Ecological Indicator: Shade-intolerant. "...on very dry to moderately dry soils. Restricted to water-shedding sites on southeastern Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, and adjacent coastal mainland; its occurrence decreases with increasing latitude, elevation and continentality. Occasional in pure or mixed-species young-seral stands (usually with Garry oak or Douglas-fir) on strongly drained sites....Characteristic of moisture-deficient sites." (IPBC)[E-flora]
Possible Lookalikes: "Another evergreen broadleaf tree (or large shrub) in our region is chinquapin (Castanopsis chrysophylla), a relative of oaks and chestnuts. It has leathery, lance-shaped leaves that are dark green above and golden- scaly below. white flowers in upright catkins, and spiny, burr-like fruits like small chestnuts. Chinquapin is known from a few locations at low elevations in the Puget Trough, and from low to middle elevations in Oregon." [PCBC]


Contains " or more antibacterial substances which were active in vitro mainly against Gram-positive and acid-fast bacteria. Their studies indicated the presence of several substances having similar chemical and anti-bacterial activities and the name "madronin" was given to the crude mixture of the active material (1, 2)." It is "...revealed that the active principles were essentially gallotannin and catechol tannin and their various decomposition products of gallic acid, m-digallic acid, trigallic acid, catechol, phloroglucinol, and glucose."PIAP

Alleleochemicals: "...litter extracts of Pacific Madrone...inhibited radical elongation in germinating Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) seeds." [Waller Allelochemicals] C6C1-compounds; "...well known to have allelopathic activity". Isolated from Arbutus Sp. and others. "These compounds inhibit the germination and growth of many plants of the California chaparral community. [Reigosa Alleleopathy]


Arbutus "requires a lime-free nutrient-rich well-drained moisture-retentive soil in sun or semi-shade and shelter from cold drying winds, especially when young(200)". Though it may also succeed "in a limy soil according to another report(182)". It's hardy to about -10oc(200). "The flowers have a honey-like fragrance which will pervade the whole garden on calm days(245). Trees are slow-growing in the wild, living up to 225 years(229), though they are fairly fast growing in cultivation when young(11). They dislike being transplanted and should be placed in their final positions as soon as possible(11, 134, 166). Give them some protection in their first winter outdoors. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus(200)."[PFAF]


"Many fungi, normally forming ectomycorrhiza on other host plants, also colonise plants in the genera Arbutus and Arctostaphylos and the family Pyrolaceae, forming arbutoid mycorrhizas. The structures formed usually have a well-developed mantle and Hartig net but, in contrast to ectomycorrhizas, extensive intracellular proliferation of the fungus occurs. In this type of association, as in ectomycorrhiza, the fungus receives reduced carbon from the plant host and supplies the plant with soil nutrients." [BassiriRad NAP]


The seed is "best surface sown, as it is ripe, in a cold frame. It should be soaked 5-6 days in warm water, before being surface sown in a shady greenhouse position. Cold stratifying for 6 weeks can help. It should germinate within 2-3 months at 20C. Grown in a greenhouse for their first winter, to be planted out in late spring after the last frost."[PFAF]

Basal cuttings can be taken in late winter.
Cuttings of the mature wood of the current seasons growth, can be fall planted in a frame, but with poor success.
Layering of young wood may take two years,[PFAF]

Seed Collection: "Arbutus berries can be dried at room temperature or seeds can be separated from the pulp immediately after being collected. Fresh or dried fruit can be soaked in water in a warm place to soften the pulp. Fruits then can be macerated and the seeds separated from the pulp by flotation. Seeds or uncleaned berries should be thoroughly dried, then stored in airtight containers at 2-5°C". [Leadem FSSB]

Soak 24hrs. Stratification 60 days. [Leadem FSSB]

Other Info

Protected Species: In Saanich, B.C. "...bylaw prohibits the removal of all Garry oak, arbutus, Pacific dogwood, and other significant native trees more than 5 meters (16.3 feet) tall and 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) in diameter without a permit." [Apostol RPNW]


Family: Ericaceae - Heath

Shrub, tree, glabrous to hairy, burled or not.
Stem: erect; bark smooth at first, then shredding or fissured.
Leaf: alternate, evergreen, leathery. Inflorescence: panicle, bracted; bractlets 2.
Flower: sepals 5, fused at base; corolla urn-shaped, petals 5, fused; stamens 10, anthers dehiscing by short separate gaping slits, awns elongate; ovary superior, papillate, chambers 5.
Fruit: berry.
Seed: few per chamber.
20 species: North America, Central America, western Europe, Mediterranean, western Asia. (Latin: name for Arbutus unedo L., strawberry tree) [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Arbutus menziesii - Arbutus [PCBC][E-flora][TSFTK]

Uses of Other Related Sp.

Arbutus unedo - Arbousier


Page last modified on Thursday, June 11, 2020 6:39 AM