Madrona Bearing Fruit
This past spring, one of my Madronas bloomed profusely. This was a rare event for my trees and a bit exciting to see. Now the tree is loaded with clusters of berry-like fruits. At the moment, they are yellow to green in color and the size of large peas. Eventually, they will swell further and turn bright red. This is the source of the tree's nickname, "Strawberry Tree." The fruits should last into December, provided the birds don't get them first. It will be interesting to watch how this progresses.
Madronas also go by the name Madrone, and in Canada they are called Arbutus. They are members of the Heath family (Ericaceae) and related to rhododendrons, Kinnikinnick and Salal. This is only the second time I have seen blossoms on my own trees, and the first time any of them have borne fruit.
They are almost impossible to transplant. Feel lucky if one springs up naturally in your garden. The secret to growing Madronas is to do pretty much nothing. By all means, don't water or fertilize them. If you have one come up in your garden, just leave it alone. Madronas have an intimate relationship with fungi around their roots. These mycorrhizae help take care of their needs. If you do something that damages the fungi, the tree will die.
I have done some pruning on mine and they seem to tolerate that. When small, the trunks and branches can be carefully shaped and bent as with bonsai. As the trees grow, however, the wood becomes as rigid as steel.
The Pacific Madrona (Arbutus menziesii) is my favorite tree. They grow naturally in sculptured forms as if pruned for a Japanese garden. They are beautiful evergreen specimen trees that look good year around. They also look good in the understory of large conifers.
Madronas become hubs of wildlife activity. Several insect species are attracted to the trees' resources. This brings the birds who feed on the insects. Mine always seem to be full of Spotted Towhees and Chestnut-backed Chickadees. Now the fruits will become another wildlife attractant.
Seeing one of my trees bearing fruit is like getting dessert. In all my years, I have never seen Madrona fruits, so this is exciting. I can't wait to see how they turn out.