Arbutus

Arbutus menziesii
Arbutus Arbutus

A broadleaf evergreen tree, up to 30 metres tall, usually with a crooked or leaning trunk that divides into several twisting upright branches and an irregularly rounded crown.

Arbutus leaves and berries

Leaves
Dark and glossy but pale underneath, 7 to 12 centimetres long, thick, with a leathery texture.

Flowers
Dense clusters of urn-shaped white, waxy flowers drooping at the ends of twigs in April or May.

Arbutus flowers
Fruit
The fruit is berry-like, 7 millimetres across, and bright reddish-orange, with a peel-like surface texture.
Arbutus bark Bark
The bark is thin, smooth, and reddish-brown, peeling in thin flakes or strips to expose younger, smooth, greenish to cinnamon-red bark underneath.

Where to find arbutus
Arbutus is restricted to a narrow band along the south coast and generally occurs within 8 kilometres of the ocean. It is often found on exposed rocky bluffs overlooking the ocean.

Habitat
Arbutus is found on sites that lack moisture, such as those with rocky or rapidly drained soils. Because it does not like shade, it generally occurs in clearings or on open rocky bluffs with other species such as Garry oak or Douglas-fir, oceanspray, Oregon-grape, baldhip rose, and several herbs and grasses.

The flowers have a strong honey smell and are very attractive to bees. Fruit-eating birds such as waxwings and robins frequently eat the berries.

Where to find arbutus
Uses
Arbutus bark is very rich in a substance used for tanning hides. The wood is heavy and hard, tends to be brittle, and cracks when drying. It is used only for woodworking in British Columbia.
Notes
Arbutus is the only native broadleaf evergreen tree in Canada. Another common name is madrone, a Spanish word for the strawberry tree, of which arbutus is a close relative. The Scottish botanist Archibald Menzies first collected specimens in 1792 and described it as the oriental strawberry tree.

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