Arbutus menziesii - Pacific Madrone - West Palomar Mtn. / Upper Agua Tibia, - and -, north side Rodriguez Mtn.



San Diego County native-wild Arbutus menziesii:    Photo above taken November 17, 2012; next two Agua Tibia photos below taken five days later, Nov. 22nd. It's about a six hour roundtrip moderately vigorous hike from the S76 to about a quarter mile beyond my standing position in the 'approach' photo, - second photo below - , or a nine to ten hour roundtrip hike from the S76 to go all the way into the bowl to the south side of the creeks to check out a few or more of the Madrones located at different aspects, right up to touching them, -which I haven't exactly done yet, but I got to about a hundred feet from a couple down in the bowl, - an 8 hour roundtrip hike; difficult access due to vegetation and creek terrain, after getting down the steep slope from atop the hike-ridge.   This is in the west Palomar Mtn range, showing the rocky point peak of Eagle Crag in the background.  Madrones are in the pit of the canyon bowl, slightly lower right of center.  Closeups of Madrones in the canyon are in the above and below photos.  Pacific Madrone are admired for their smooth, lustrous, reddish-brown to golden orangish brown bark, contrasting glossy light/slightly glaucous to dark green leaves, white flower clusters in spring-summer, and red berries in fall-winter.  

The plants with the yellow leaves in the understory near the bottom of the photo are Styrax redivivus, in autumn color, which makes a beautifully bright presence in the shady understory.  They drop their leaves in winter.


Of special note, reliable substitute Madrones to use for built landscapes in the San Diego low elevation areas are Arbutus 'Marina', or, Arbutus andrachne, since Arbutus menziesii is usually difficult to succeed with in built landscapes in low elevations in Southern California.  Those two other Madrone types are native to the Mediterranean Sea region.  In Southern California, success with Arbutus menziesii is most reliable with two to four inches of mulch or at least shaded soil if not mulched, though preferably both, and located on north slopes, or north sides of buildings, walls, fences.  The more sun it gets at it's soil area, the more important it is to keep the mulch thick enought to keep the ground cool around the Madrone, all the way to the trunk-stem(yes that's fine, no problem, and probably preferable for the Madrone's best performance especially in a warm climate such as most of Southern California, rather than keeping the mulch a few inches away from the stem-trunk; and, that's actually true for most plants of chaparral to foresty types, and of course with mulch thickness not being 'too thick' to the stem-trunk, and variable per plant-species size and type).  It could also be very helpful, if also, - variably - , highly impractical, to take a handful of soil(for specific mycorrhizae: soil-root-fungal-filament relations) from beneath a well established Pacific Madrone(or other non-native Madrone possibly), or a well established Comarostaphylis diversifolia which occurs in the coastal to foothill low mountain regions of San Diego, being that Comarostaphylis div. is closely related to Arbutus menziesii; and to a somewhat lesser degree of relation, also included is Mission Manzanita(Xylococcus), Arctostaphylos-Manzanitas, and Ornithostaphylos (all of the above being in the Arbutoideae tribe of the Ericaceae family) are other possibilities for taking a handful of soil from beneath their canopy for making a potentially helpful 'arbutoideae-specific'-mycorrhizae soil inoculation.  And btw, how would Arbutus m. seedlings naturally arise?,... - they typically need a part shade(a little sun, some shade), thinly mulched soil, soil showing through the mulch, since 'thick' mulch/leaf litter would largely prevent germination, going on what has been observed of wild population regeneration by field biologists/botanists.

 Looking northeast, toward Crossley Saddle, but from within the canyon bowl north side of creek, a Pacific madrone in the mid-ground showing it's golden-brownish-orange-ish smooth lustrous bark, and pale green leaves.  The leaves tend have a lustrous sort of paleness dependent on the sunlight reflectivity(even in some bright shaded situations) yet when you look at them in hand or in some shaded situations they appear basic medium green.

The approach, Eagle Crag in the center distance:

Below are photos taken January 5, 2013, of Arbutus menziesii on the north side of Rodriguez Mtn. at the base of the mid-area 'V' of the escarpment.  They're in the lower center area with the lighter-brighter-shinier leaves, sprouting from rootburls/stumps which were killed back by fire in 2007, known as the Poomacha Fire. Btw, not all of the species of plants in the area were entirely consumed by the fire, as shown by the Live Oaks which still maintained full crowns/canopies, indicating the fire didn't have much effective height:


Photo immediately below at bottom of mid-escarpment 'v', uppermost individual Madrone shown.  Population of about eight individuals in this population patch, which are all multi-trunked burl re-sprouters(all around 8 to 10 feet tall), due to fires in years past.  Quercus agrifolia(coast live oak, are the trees in background):


Photo below showing a few Madrone burl sprout clusters at the mid-escarpment 'V' population, with Palomar Mtn. in the distance and San Luis Rey River canyon below.


Photo below taken September 25, 2012, showing the Rodriguez Mtn. north side escarpment, from the perspective of the San Luis Rey River Flume Station.  An Arbutus menziesii population of at least 8 burl sprouting clumps is near the base of the middle 'V' of the escarpment.  There are likely to be other population clusters downslope of the upper one I saw.  There are also population clusters of A. menziesii in the upper portion and mid portion of the westside ravine, at right side of photo in the far distance behind the shady vegetated slope in foreground.

Photos below taken in the westside ravine on January 5, 2013, mid-ravine level, showing an approximately 40' Madrone in upper photo, - apparently a burl resprouter from a fire decades ago.  Photo below upper one shows a 12'-15' Madrone at my right in background, probably not a burl resprouter, which nearly all of the Madrones are in the Rodriguez populations, due to past fires.  Btw, the tree in upper photo immediately below is behind my head in background of the photo below it.  Fern at right of Madrone is Woodwardia fimbriata.


Photos below taken March 3, 2013, showing the west side ravine from the upper perspective just over the saddle, above the beginning of the ravine-proper.  Palomar Mtn. and San Luis Rey River canyon in background.   About 60' beyond the live oak cluster, which is about a football field away from the camera position in the photo below, is the upper most ravine Madrone, and which is most likely also the southernmost native-wild growing individual of the species(!...yes), shown in the center of the photo following:

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