[Tweeters] Biogeograpy

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Oct 16 08:50:03 PDT 2013

I've always thought that the Madrone tree could easily star in an Australian movie scene. The tree , while not remotely resembling it's Northwest neighbors, could sort of pass as a Eucalyptus of some kind. To see a Koala perched up in one , really wouldn't look that strange.

Of course it would be strange, because Eucalyptus and Koala's are found in Australia, while the Madrone is a Pacific Coast native. In North America there are several species of Madrone, in Arizona and in Texas (I saw one in the Texas Hill Country back in May - a life tree for me), but our local, in another example of west coast tree gigantism, is a much larger vegetable than those little Southwesterners.

I grew up a few blocks from Lincoln Park in West Seattle, with it's wonderful groves of this tree, which us local yokels called Madrona's. If you speak Latin, or Canadian, you might call this tree Arbutus - the high-priced name of the species is Arbutus menziesii.

Anyway, as most know, it is a spectacular tree with it's glossy evergreen leaves, and incredibly sensuous and colorful bark. Some of natures finest abstract art takes place on the trunk of this tree, as the smooth papery layers peel off, in changing colors. I imagine Georgia O'keefe would've gone gaga over Madrone bark if she'd seen some.

After all these other fine attributes, to see this tree in full fruit can be astounding. A few years ago, pulling into Port Townsend, one of the Madrone portals to this town was so brilliant with red berries, glowing in the late fall light, my jaw dropped. Looking even more like some sort of red-flowering Eucalypt. The berries are very popular with Band-tailed Pigeons, Robins, and other birds, who sometimes get drunk on the late season fermenting fruit.

Seeing a Belted Kingfisher diving from a beachside Madrone one day, I thought of the Kookaburra Song, a childhood flashback. "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree...". A Kookaburra is a sumo-sized Kingfisher, and the 'gum tree' is Aussie for eucalyptus. While the Madrone looks sort of gum -like, it's unrelated, but still I thought it was an interesting connection, if only aesthetic.

If you really want to see a Madrone tree, don't bother coming to Everett Wa., because there are virtually none here! Boo hoo. While they are along the beaches of the Tulalip shore and north, and maybe a few down toward Mukilteo, Everett is mostly devoid of these trees. Maybe our version of glacial till is too wet, or something.

But one day a few years ago, I found an unusual hideout for Snohomish county Madrones. Driving north on the Jordan Road just outside of Granite Falls, I was admiring the mossy balds, and cliffs of adjacent Jordan Ridge - a frontal Cascade foothill- when I spotted Madrones up there - lot's of them, a whole hillside forest of 'em on the rocky slopes. Pretty cool. I would suppose that the open rocky slopes, at low elevation, would have lots of neato spring flowers, and other botanical wonders. These Madrones are about 12 miles inland, (as the sober pigeon flies) from the nearest tidewater at the Snohomish river mouth in Everett. Now I have to find a way to get up there - a lot of the lower slopes are private property. Anybody out there know that area?

Jeff Gibson
exploring in
Everett wa

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