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'Decline of the Pacific Madrone'

Decline of the Pacific Madrone

From a conference at the Center for Urban Horticulture (UW)
Edited by A.B. Adams and Clement Hamilton


Unfortunately the Center for Urban Horticulture is best known as the victim of an alleged eco-tourist attack (never rule out some smart counter-terrorism on these sorts of things). It should be best known as the agricultural extension agent for 21st century environmentalism. Their staff is very helpful on questions relating to the health of the urban environment - for everyone from the most sanguine and connected landscape professional to the lay home owner with an avocational expertise.

Like it's publisher this book may also have more presence negatively than that positively earned. It is true that Madrones have suffered some locally - but this book investigates that question to positive result. Madrones,(related to Rhododendrons) are beautiful, unique, and native can be successfully planted.

In fact it is quite possible that the sick trees seen are soley the side effect of making them visible. When a stand is revealed by the construction of a nearby road roots can be disturbed, something the trees are sensitive to (they also don't transplant well from the wild, once established). In addition the bark is sensitive to light, more so if it has grown in the shade and then is exposed. A tree that thanks to that same clearing is now on the edge of the forest may develop problems from such. The only real bad news is that the distinctive red bark is a sign of stress - it is not necessarily fatal, but too much can be a bad sign.(It shows a weaker protection against disease penetration)

Many trees can also be quite spindly, with little foliage, except at the very top. This is an effect of growing in a denser forest and the competive stress of same can lead to a less healthy tree, as it does in many species.

A little bit of spindliness can be quite attractive, like some of the trees in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood. My personal observation is that the form of these trees is most likely a remnant of their youth, prior to the development of the boulevard. In a sunny spot and well drained soil a Madrona should thrive.

The conference that inspired this collection was brought about by the actions of the Magnolia neighborhood. I haven't been there lately, but I do recall one of the test plots, near the main Discovery Park parking lots. The success of these trees, as well as the grand old fellows (and ladies) of Magnolia Boulevard is perhaps the best testimony to the accuracy of this research and its ability to stand the tests of time.

Per the Center for Urban Horticulture the trees are available at least through these sources:

Burnt Ridge Nursery in Onalaska, WA
Forest Farm in Williams, OR
wholesale nursery Fourth Corner Nurseries in Belllingham, WA


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