Madrone tree trunk with peeling bark, in Rogue River State Park

Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) is a native tree of the far west, and a member of the Heath (Ericaceae) family. Like many of its cousins, the manzanitas (genus Arctostaphylos) one of its notable characteristics is that it sheds its bark. It is a striking tree, with smooth orangey to red trunk, but no one knows why it does this.

I have found almost no information on Native uses of madrone in Oregon, though there are several reported for several California tribes, and some in Canada. Francis Johnson (Takelma) described a tree that sounds very much like madrone, she called it ts’asap. The berries are ripe in fall and people ate some of them when ripe.

In California, the Costanoan people of the bay area,Concow Maidu and Karuk also ate the ripe berries. The Karuk also used the berries as a bait for steelhead fishing. Many more people used parts of the tree to make medicine – the Cahuilla used the leaves to treat stomach ailments, the Cowichan (Coast Salish) made an infusion of the bark for cuts, wounds, and a treatment for diabetes. Miwok people used the cider from the berries to treat stomach troubles.


Harrington, John P. 1942. Alsea, Siuslaw, Coos, Southwest Oregon Athapaskan: Vocabularies, Linguistic Notes, Ethnographic and Historical Notes. John Peabody Harrington Papers, Alaska/Northwest Coast, in National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

Moerman, Daniel E. 1998. Native American Ethnobotany. Timber Press. Portland, OR.



About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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