The only native broadleaf evergreen tree in Canada, the Arbutus is found from the southern coastline of BC to California. In BC the Arbutus grows in a narrow band along the south coast line, generally within 5 kilometers (3 miles), of the ocean. It can grow up to 30 meters tall (100 feet), with a crooked or leaning trunk that divides into several twisting upright branches and an irregularly rounded crown. The Arbutus can live for 500 years.
In Washington and Oregon State the tree is known as the Madrona, and in California as Madrone, (Spanish for strawberry tree). The Scottish botanist Archibal Menzies, a naturalist who accompanied Captain George Vancouver on his voyage around the world on HMS Discovery, first collected specimens in 1792. His name is commemorated in the name Arbutus menziesii.
The bark of the Arbutus is easily recognized with its thin, smooth, and reddish-brown colour. The peeling is natural, in thin flakes or strips to expose younger, smooth, greenish to cinnamon-red bark underneath. The flowers have a strong honey smell and are very attractive to bees. The leaves can stay on the tree for up to two years, after which they turn orange and red, falling around the month of June. The trees are hearty, can grow with little soil and require very little water. They survive the harshest winter storms on the west coast, withstanding high winds and pounding ocean waves. The wood is used for a variety of things, such as furniture and carving. The Arbutus is unmistakably charismatic and original.