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.”

 

Harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)

The distinctive Harlequin duck is a  beautiful small sea duck with a small bill, short neck, and long tail. Males in breeding plumage are unmistakable with their dark blue color, reddish brown sides and crown, and striking white patterning on the face, neck, sides, and back. Unlike most waterfowl that prefer quiet marshes, the Harlequin duck breeds on fast-flowing streams and winters along rocky coastlines in the crashing surf.

Harlequin ducks are well adapted to their harsh surroundings. They make their way against the current and easily climb up steep and slippery rocks, although many have been found with broken bones presumably from being dashed against rocks in the rough surf. Like other diving ducks, they forage underwater for crustaceans and mollusks, insects, and small fish found in riverine and marine habitats.

The Harlequin duck is sometimes called a sea mouse for its very unducklike squeaks. You can listen to the Harlequin duck here.

Shore pine (Pinus contorta)

Shore pine and lodgepole pine are two different varieties of the species (Pinus contorta). In the Northwest, the  coastal lowland form is called shore pine and the inland, mountain form of this species is called lodgepole pine. Shore pine is found between Alaska and Northern California and typically colonizes infertile sites near sea level where other trees grow poorly, if at all. When grown in tough, windy locations, shore pine can be twisted and irregularly shaped (hence the name ‘contorta’). Although shore pine can live to be 250 years old, they are typically grow to between 20 and 35 feet in height due to the harsh conditions where they live.  

Native people used shore pine pitch medicinally and put it on open sores. Today, the lumber is sometimes used for cabinets, knotty pine paneling or other finish work. Its inland sibling, the lodgepole pine, grows straight and tall  and was used by natives for the central pole in tepees. Nationwide, pines are second only to oaks in the food value to wildlife. They have nutritious, oily seeds that are favored by many birds and small mammals. Foliage is eaten by grouse and deer and porcupines and small rodents eat the bark and wood.

Can you identify other trees on the Oregon Coast that have developed unique adaptations due to their unique living environment?