Any Pacific Madrone Pioneers?

After searching, I found one topic on this species from a couple years ago, and I’ve done some googling around, but I still haven’t found a lot of information. So I figured I’d bring attention to the Madrone again and see if anyone has done work on it.

Superficially, the Madrone strikes me as a species with incredible bonsai potential. This beauty of the Pacific Northwest (right in Mirai’s backyard!) branches with a naturally interesting habit, and the bark makes an incredibly vivid statement.

The problem I see mentioned is the inability to root prune without killing the tree. The madrone doesn’t mind drying out a bit, but it absolutely hates transplanting.

Does anyone have ideas for ways to adjust for that? Do any other bonsai species have similar root sensitivity and how have those species been trained successfully? Have other arbutus relatives been more successful?

I’m still fairly new to growing plants and I don’t understand root formation well enough to be confident in my own ideas, but I am curious if air pruning the roots might be a gentler way to prevent the tree from getting potbound than manually pruning them.

Or could smaller, more frequent pruning sessions work?

My own Madrone ships in September, and as much as I’d love to do some science on it to help answer these questions, I’m hesitant to do anything too daring since it was expensive (by my paltry budget anyway). I might try the air pruning technique if that stands a reasonable chance. Otherwise, I’ll probably just keep up-potting it until somebody figures it out. 'cause it’s gotta be possible, right?

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All I can say is they are transplant abhorrent, been trying to plant these on my property for 4 years. They look fine until the first spring after planting, then they die. Tried planting in spring, tried planting in fall, no success.

I think akadama may help with finer root growth possibly preventing some of the shock of the repot, but I’m still a novice myself. The video on akadama may be helpful.

Also, its possible that the Paperbark Maple may be easier and still have a similar appearance. Check out the paperback maple - very similar bark formation, and branch design can always be a somewhat forced appearance with our standard design understanding of bonsai as a practice.

Paperbark Maple, Acer griseum, is definitely an overlooked species for bonsai. The natural growth habit is coarse, but they respond well to partial defoliation (even complete defoliation if really strong), and are easy to transplant. Unfortunately, most of the trees in the nurseries are tall and straight. They set lots of seed, but most of it is not viable. It also appears that they may not self pollinate very well, My neighbor also has one so I get some seedlings every year.

Paperbark Maple is a good recommendation. I find that kind of peeling bark-over-red very appealing, which also attracted me to the Scots Pine long before I started bonsai or knew any trees by name.

I don’t want to give up on the Madrone dream if I don’t have to - I’m particularly fond of evergreens, and I have some pride in it as an Oregon tree. I’ll check out the akadama video.

But Madrone or not, I’ll definitely get myself a paperbark. I believe there’s a row of them recently planted on a new road nearby (I actually mistook them for madrone for a moment.)

Madrone has some root challenges in common with Manzanita, Neither like to be transplanted. Ryan says the mycorrhizal relationship with plants growing around Manzanita are needed to help with successful collection. I am not sure if Madrone is similar but I suspect it might be. I have had better success my nursery bought Manzanita than collected ones. Is your Madrone going to be collected or nursery grown?

That makes sense, with Madrone/Arbutus being fairly closely related to Manzanita. I have a few trees I brought home from the coast that seem to have nice mycorrhiza in their soil. I’m not sure how well that sticks around or propagates between pots?

The good news is that my Madrone is coming from a nursery. They’re sending it in a biodegradable pot so that in theory it won’t need to be pulled out when I first start developing it.

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If anybody wants any Pacific Madrona, they have 8 here at Padden Creek nursery. Bellingham Washington :blush::+1:t2:

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Good find! I laughed when I saw the ominous “ask for info sheet”. Buyer beware species.

I ordered a few seeds in addition to my live tree. I’ll try to get them going this spring. I’ll try an akadama heavy blend (akadama straight?) in net pots and try to cultivate a strong, dense root mass to hopefully ease transplant pains.

The Pacific Madrone grows up and down the coast here.
I have thought about collecting one. I love the bark. :smiley:

Great question. I’ve asked Ryan over Forum Q&A’s several years ago as it was one of the first trees I thought would make a sweet bonsai or forest creation when I started on this journey back in WA. I have no way of experimenting though here in the middle of Europe :smiley:

I’m sure it’ll happen soon though. Same with that Giant Sequoia :slight_smile:

Just a wild thought… can the madrone (arbutus menziesii) be grafted onto a strawberry tree (arbutus unedo) which is a common nursery plant. Worth experimenting with?


Thanks for the heads up. Will be in Bellingham last week of the month so will swing by. I’ve been pondering whether to try a Pacific Madrona because it is such an iconic PNW tree and love the bark.

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yeah it would be a very interesting experiment if we could get it grafted onto a more manageable rootstock, or even rootgraft unedo onto a small menziesii?

i spend a considerable portion of my childhood in a madrone forest, and even had one turned into a ladder to the loft in our home, I have wanted to grow them since the moment I owned my own home.

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A ladder eh? Like a live one or you used the structure to create a ladder? Do you have any pictures?

Yes, they are incredible trees and was also one of the first subjects I thought about when I first started this craft/hobby/passion.

Like my hippy parents cut all the branches except for a set of nice lateral branches, trimmed those off at about 1ft long and sanded the ends, peeled the bark down to one nice layer (or maybe peeled it and let it recover some) and then cut the top off at 15-20 ft, and the bottom off at ground level and them set it up in the corner of our living room. Looked like it came out of the wood floor and went to the ceiling.
We climbed it to get to the 2nd story loft. Super pretty, super fun as a kid. Hippy parents had very few upsides, but a tree as a staircase was one of them.

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Has anyone considered to grow/work on Arbutus arizonica or A. xalapensis instead of A. menziesii? Both arizonica and xalapensis are native to arid areas of AZ and TX respectively, which might ease work on them. Particularly xalapensis trees in Guadalupe mountains are just stunning.
As far as I know, there are also other Arbutus species in Mexico.