Pacific Madrone Firewood – Arbutus menziesii
Madrone firewood burns long and hot and produces less ash than many other hardwoods. As firewood for home heating, it is considered one of the best woods available on the west coast, where it grows from California into Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Madrone wood produces smoke that has a nice flavor, making it a good wood for cooking, grilling and smoking foods.
Pacific madrone, sometimes spelled madrona, is a broadleaf evergreen tree with waxy, shiny green leaves and smooth bark that can range from green or reddish. In mid to late summer, the outer layers of the bark curl up into almost paper thin layers and shed from the trees. At around the same time the older leaves turn yellow and shed, after the newer leaves that sprouted in the spring have already grown to maturity.
Madrone trees, like a lot of hardwoods, will quickly sprout back from the stump after a tree is cut down and the sprouts can rapidly grow into new trees. This quick regeneration makes madrone trees very renewable. This also allows madrone to quickly regenerate after a wildfire. Madrone trees grow in areas that are prone to wildfire and their thin bark does little to protect them, so they are easily killed by fire. However, the part of the tree and roots underground are protected from the heat by the soil and will quickly start growing new sprouts after the tree above the ground is killed.
In the spring, madrone trees bloom with small white blossoms that will often be surrounded by the buzzing sound of bees and a sweet honey-like fragrance. By the end of summer, the tree tops can be covered in red berries that are a valuable food for wildlife, especially birds and bears. I have seen madrone trees with branches broken out and the bark ripped to shreds by bear claws from bears climbing the trees to get the madrone berries. Madrone berries are also edible to humans and were a source of food for Native Americans. In my opinion, madrone berries are not very tasty, this is probably why you don’t find them in the berry section of the grocery store.
Madrone wood makes beautiful lumber that is hard and durable, which makes it ideal for flooring. Madrone burls are also prized for their beauty from their unique colors and grain patterns. Madrone, like a lot of western hardwoods, can be difficult to cure since the wood warps and cracks as it dries. Although the wood has some very desirable properties, lumber production from madrone lumber is still not widely produced.
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