Pacific Madrone – (Arbutus menziesii)

While traveling in coastal Oregon keep a lookout for a tree that really stands out with it’s red bark and broad evergreen leaves. Various confifer trees dominate the coastal range but if you look you will notice the Pacific Madrone. Madrone is a broadleaved evergreen tree and a member of the heath family (Ericaceae). It is distinguished by its smooth trunk, orange-red deciduous bark, white flowers, and red berries. It is utilized by wildlife, especially birds. It can grow to a height of 80-125 feet tall and although rare may grow up to 4 feet  in diameter. Pacific madrone produces seed as early as 3 to 5 years of age. Trees begin flowering in early spring, from mid-March to May, depending on the elevation. The blossoms are dense, drooping clusters (terminal panicles) of small, white, urn-shaped flowers. The fruit is a berry (0.3 to 0.5 in.), which ripens in the fall, turning from yellow-green to bright red or reddish-orange.The wood is also used for furniture, flooring, turnings, paneling, veneer for hardwood plywood faces and core stock, pulpwood, and firewood.

For a pdf fact sheet about the Pacific Madrone from Oregon Department of Forestry see https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Documents/ForestBenefits/PacificMadrone.pdf

 

For some more cultural/spiritual thoughts about the Madrone see http://www.arbutusarts.com/sacred-trees.html

“On the British Columbia West Coast, the Salish Nation also honors the Arbutus Tree as their Tree of Knowledge because it knows how to find the sun. It twists and turns and somehow knows to drop one branch when there is not enough sunlight and it is shaded and it will grow a new one where the sun can reach it.”

 

Rough-skin Newt
Rough-skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa)

What do think of when you say the word Newt? … maybe you thought they were just a mythical made up creature! Well in fact the Oregon coast is home to this very interesting creature the Rough Skinned Newt!

Rough-skinned newts were named for their dry granular skin―most other salamander species have moist smooth skin. A terrestrial adult newt has a brown head and back with a bright orange belly and can grow to almost eight inches in total length.

Through the non-breeding season, terrestrial adults live in forested areas along the coast and through to the eastern foothills of the Cascades. They find protection in or under soft logs. For their size, these newts travel relatively long distances between their breeding and non-breeding habitat and may be seen crossing sidewalks and roads during spring and fall as they migrate.

An interesting study from Standford University reveals Rough-skinned newts harbor in their skin the same deadly toxin found in blowfish. A newt must be ingested to be toxic but Garter snakes that dine on the newts have evolved resistance to the toxin, spurring greater toxicity in the newts by natural selection.

Researchers report that in some areas, the snakes have somehow evolved levels of resistance far beyond what the newts are capable of countering. The newt emits an acrid smell that probably discourages most predators from tasting it.