Arbutus: Arbutus in PEI

Discussion in 'Ericaceae (rhododendrons, arbutus, etc.)' started by Michael Zinck, May 3, 2006.

  1. jstu

    jstu Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    I would say that South Vancouver Island is the mildest area of BC. It is sheltered by the Olympic peninsula and it has the moderating effect of the Pacific Ocean all around it. The Saanich peninsula is in a rain shadow of sorts, as is much of the east island and gulf islands. The terrain is at best low and rolling, and where it isn't--like around Arrowsmith--you won't find any Arbutus.

    You'd be hard pressed to find and Arbutus east of Burnaby on the mainland. What I mean by barely clinging to life is that you live in the last fringe of it's range. The species clings to very small toehold on very specific areas of the south coast. A 1/2 degree east or north, a thousand feet of elevation, a few more milimeters of rain per year...make difference between life or death for this species--although I assume there must be some localized cultivars here that are cold or wet hardy. In a general sense, this species is very climate and terrain specific, and you live in the sweet spot.

    I used to live on the south island myself. Aside from the winter winds, I might as well have been living in Elysium, the climate and terrain was so sedate. Don't get me wrong, I know it grows like mad where you live, but I would say that area is noticeably milder than most of the lower mainland north of the Fraser River.

    My guess is you have never seen ice and arbutus in the same spot. That's the rule of thumb I was taught by some BC old timers. If you can make snowballs in your back yard a few times a year or the puddles on your driveway freeze up into 1 cm black ice, I think it would be hard (not impossble) to grow one there outdoors. We had a lot of snow last year and the year before, so you can bet I am not going to be planting mine in my back yard.
     
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    For what it's worth, today's photographs (September 26, 2006) were taken in an area that had ~60 cm of snow lasting for a week or so in January 2005.

    The northernmost occurrence of Arbutus menziesii from specimen records is ~50 km north of Powell River on East Redonda Island in Coastal Western Hemlock Forest (from BC Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification). I don't have a topo map, but I'm guessing the weather there would be similar to what Powell River experiences, so high sun and little rainfall. It may not be winter cold that would prevent it from growing, but rather summer wet.
     
  3. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    j stu,
    "My guess is you have never seen ice and arbutus in the same spot."

    Many times have I seen ice (and snow) in Madrone country, periodically breaking limbs under the weight. So that's not a singular or explicit condition of growth range.
    Most often these trees grow in rocky, or quick draining sites which is key to basic culture for Arbutus. Some soil microbes are also reported to be of valuable essence in the habitat.

    Cheers, LPN.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2013
  4. jstu

    jstu Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    I'd say its a rule of thumb, not an immutable law of botany. A quick snow that's at +1 degress is wet and heavy. I would also contend the fact that the limbs are breaking is a sign that the climate is killing the tree. A few weeks more or a few more inches of snow that sticks and the trees are in trouble.

    Winter conditions that stay for weeks on end from -5 to -10 I would say is a killer. I do not believe I have heard of an arbutus withstanding conditions we could call a "real winter". Even a flash freeze or two is quickly moderated by the ocean. Snow and ice are freak events on the south island, and the tree is hardy enough to get through.
     
  5. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    It grows well when planted in western Scotland (zone 9 temperate rainforest climate with plenty of summer rain)
     
  6. jstu

    jstu Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    one of natures miracles I suppose
     
  7. jstu

    jstu Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    My guess is it has to be the cold...or else we would see them in dry warm places like Keremeos and Osoyoos that have the right sun, soil, and lack of rain. I just don't see it as being a species that puts up a canopy that can take a lot of "top-down" cold abuse. I also suspect the unique charater of its bark, pitch (or lack thereof) and air-loving root structure is not fond of ice structures, frost heaves, and frost wedging. A lot of times snow can sit on the ground while the earth underneath a foot or so is a few degrees warmer than zero. Hey, does anyone here really know the answer or are we all just making educated guesses? Perhaps a blanket of wet snow is is easier on the roots than constant cold rain or dry cold and frost heaves? I would be very happy if someone had some seeds form a tree they considered to be cold / wet hardy and then I could run them side by side in the same location and scale them up in elevations and zones of preciptiation to see the results over the years.

    Whatever factors seem to make it work, it certainly thrives is in LPN's area and I am sorry if I seemed a little harsh. I am going to GPS and post where I plant them around the lower mainland and give them the same care, I will try some more agressive plantings...but even that should produce flawed data. It's one thing for a tree or two to survive in an area carefully chosen and lovingly supervised.

    It's another thing to see the population in that are expand over decades. Looks like we'll be settling this squabble in 1-2 hundred years. =;-)
     
  8. tomauroland

    tomauroland Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    What an interesting thread!!..
    my passion...Arbutus...this summer I cried as I watched a bulldozer murder one of the
    last on the hillside where they are putting a new subdivision...I think there should be
    a LAW against this...(I phoned the city..yes they followed the "rules"..which seem to
    be allowing clear cutting lately.....
    I live under one of the most magnificant specimens I have seen....
    suprised also to hear they don't like water...YIKES...I'm watering like crazy....as I
    usually do at this time of the year...and because my lawn and rhodos NEED it..
    I had fought to preserve an arbutus (& apple) on an opposite corner which they
    would have cut down during a public works project...they called it road allowance..
    I call it PARK..it feeds the wildlife..

    Sherry a newer gardener...

    I am on central vancouver island facing north...
     
  9. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    I know what you mean Sherry. I noticed a good sized Arbutus / Madrone down the other day near a new water works project here in Lantzville (North of Nanaimo). The project looked finished but for some reason more trees where being cut down. Fortunatly these are quite prolific in our area but it's still a shame to see such a beauty cut down.
    I've been planting more drought tollerant plants and trees. My lawn is never watered and turns brown in mid June and stays that way until the Autumn rains begin. Routinely we are on stage 3 water restrictions and are allowed watering for 2 hours a week. Hardly enough for a half acre lot.

    Cheers, LPN.
     
  10. Ian

    Ian Active Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    Well I mentioned the presence of Arbutus menziesii in the Cascade foothills near Packwood, Washington at 2,500' in a place that quite a lot of snow falls and stays on the ground all winter (about 8 miles farther along US Hwy 12 is the White Pass Ski area). In southern Oregon, it may be found as high up as 4,000' and is quite often snow covered much of the winter as well. Like most western trees the hardiness of A. menziesii probably varies throughout its range, trees from the south end/lowest elevations being less hardy and those from the north end/highest elevations being hardier. However if it were not able to live through about -28C and lots of snow without harm one would not find mature trees in our mountain foothills far away from the water. Seed from these trees should be collected and tried in places east of the Cascade Divide; I am sure they would be successful in some milder spots. One reason they might not be there naturally is that they are not well adapted to climates with a lot of summer heat (at least not our northern forms.... as you go south they are found in places with a little bit hotter summers). I wouldn't even say that it prefers drier conditions necessarily, just that the soil has to be reasonably well drained and dry out in the summer for wild plants to be found. In the Hoodsport/Lake Cushman area of Washington it is found happily thriving on 90-100" of annual rain just as well as it does in the driest part of the Olympic rainshadow. A lot of other factors besides climate alone can regulate where a tree is native including competiton from other species - this probably explains why Arbutus menziesii is found on drier/rockier sites and poorer soils which tend to be near the water and not so much in fertile inland valleys. For example, as you go west on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula the last few Arbutus you see are along the shore of Lake Crescent, just where the sitka spruce, cedar and hemlock really start to get thick. Its presence in Scottish gardens demonstrates its ability to adapt to climates with summer rainfall; however, I have read elsewhere that is has a pretty low success rate in the UK overall, probably (and here I'm speculating) requiring a certain combination of mild winters, cool summers and well drained soil to adapt to a climate with that much summer rain.
     
  11. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    Info on the Scotland specimens here:
    http://www.madronearchive.org/

    Note in particular the one at Inverewe, 57°N, west coast, high rainfall c.2000mm/year (click on 'Catalogue of trees')
     
  12. jstu

    jstu Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    Sounds hardy, but are you sure about the minus 28 celsius? That's minus 19 farenheit. I've been on top of some 7000ft summits here in BC and have yet to see any lower than -15 ambient, even in the dead of winter. I have seen -27 in stom force winds, but I'll tell you nothing lives long in those temps--even the evergreens are stunted and rime coated. We rarely see anything more than 1-2 weeks of -10 in Vancouver (this is very rare) and ther's almost none to be seen other than those planted by humans. We don't see many in south surrey or white rock, which has lots of sun, little rain, rocky soil, and mild winters. Could it be there is an extrmeley tough cultivar in the states that hasn't been able to break out of it's range? This also begs the question: If it is cold hardy, why hasn't it been able to break out of it's range to the north. we seem to have a lot of contradictory data in this thread. Anyone study this plant in school?
     
  13. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    Well I'm with Ian on this one. How else can you explain the survival of this genus thru the thousands of years in this area. Surely they have withstood much cold and harsh conditions while establishing here. The Packwood stands are evidence of continued tenecity.
    Sunset New Western Garden Book sums it up best ... "If you live in Madrone country and have a tree in your garden, treasure it. It is exacting in it's requirements in gardens outside of it's native area."

    Cheers, LPN.
     
  14. Ian

    Ian Active Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    Sure, the record lows at 2,000-3,000' in the Cascade Mts of Washington are around -15 to -20F. Granted that would be in an extreme event but the trees are large and very old so they have gone through it. Oftentimes during severe cold weather the valleys are as cold as the mountaintops because cold air drains into them and is trapped there, even if average temperatures have an obvious inverse relation with altitude.

    As one might expect, the places Arbutus can be found in the Cascade foothills near Packwood tend to be rocky outcrops and soils that are drier than most other trees really like. In the heavily forested valleys and north facing slopes, competition from other trees is too great for Arbutus to make it. As I said I really think competition from other trees really explains why the native range of Arbutus ends where it does as you go north - summer rain tends to favor other trees like western red cedar, sitka spruce, hemlock etc. which grow faster than the Arbutus. Sure Arbutus would grow farther north if people planted them, like in Scotland... but they're not apt to naturalize where competition is too great. As you go east of the Cascade divide, I think summers are a bit hotter than they like.
     
  15. jstu

    jstu Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    why didn't they follow the cascades north? The temperature moderates. Could it be an arbutus that can only live in cold conditons and not mild ones (?!) I am truly confused as to how they can survive over generations in brutal winter conditions while natural stands cannot be found in well drained, sunny and poor-soiled areas like White Rock. There are areas around Vancouver that should support the species and see it thrive, yet almost none are present. At the same time, they seem to survive subalpine extreme winter conditions in Washington state. There is a disconnect here that could only be explained by very distinctive cultivars. The question needs to be asked then, why can you find neither cultivar around Vancouver, where you could find conditions that would be very close identical to those where the species curently thrives? There are a few here in there, but no significant stands.

    Is there anyone here who has formally studied this species as a botanist here? It seems unlikely to me that the cultivar that thrives in the mild weather of Victoria is the same one that thrives in -28, which is a temeprature I would consider potentially deadly to human beings. I mean, that is a temperature I have yet to encounter even atop 10,000 foot volcanoes. It is a sub-artic temperature. There is a disconnect somehwere here. Who's a botanist?
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2006
  16. Ian

    Ian Active Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    First, the temperature does not moderate as one goes north in the Cascades. Second, when you visit the top of 10,000' volcanoes it is probably not during the coldest winter weather ever recorded. Third, lots of plants can live through colder temperatures than uninsulated people. Fourth, no one is talking about cultivars, which are selected by gardeners, nurseries and other horticultural entities - I'm talking about the natural genetic variation that exists within one species that enables it to adapt to a variety of climates, with certain limitations. Fifth, an altitude of 1,500-3,000' in the Packwood/White Pass area of the Cascades, where those Arbutus are found, could hardly be called 'subalpine' - that would be more like 5,500' and up. And finally, one does not need to be formally trained as a botanist to form educated guesses regarding the reasons for a plant's native range. If it matters, I have a B.S. in horticulture with an emphasis in botany, and I think my answer of 'competiton from other trees' is quite a large part of it. Sometimes, however, there are no clear answers.
     
  17. jstu

    jstu Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    Hang on Ian, the temperature does moderate. I have been atop 7000-8000 feet mountains that are glaciated in the middle of winter and never experienced such extreme temps. Most of the mountains around Vancouver probably don't go much below -10 on average, and the hills that surround the city are usually quite warm in winter, so I would say that is more moderate than the -28 you are describing. Vancouver is North of where you are talking about.

    I am glad you're a scientist and know about plants. I was just hoping to hear from a trained expert who has focused on the species to determine how something could survive -28 "subarctic or arctic" temperatures, if only temporary, yet not thrive around the sunny climes of White Rock.

    Right now it is -22c on the Amery Ice Shelf in Antartica, and the conditions your are describing are -6 degrees colder. Right now in Grise Fiord, the most northern Arctic settlement in Canada it is -2c, and the average temperature on top of Mt. Everest, at 29,035 feet is -19c. The temperature you are describing is substantially colder than all three of these extreme places.

    I am not saying these are subalpine temperatures. I am saying these are deadly high arctic, top of the world temperatures you are describing. They can sometimes be accounted for in the subarctic and subalpine with wind chill, but not as ambient temperatures in our general range of longitude and latitude. White Rock has an average summer temperature of +24c and winter temperature of +6 celsius and an average of 110 cm precip / annum. Average annual snow depth is 0cm, and only 42 days a year with more than 1cm of rain. The elevation is 13m above sea level. White Pass is at 1371m with 116 cm annual precipitation. So White Pass is higher, wetter, colder, than White Rock and suffers "on occasion" arctic conditions. Packwood has an average of 152 cm of precip a year, with an average summer temp the same as White Rock of 24c. Average low temp in Packwood is -1.6c. So both Packwood and White Pass are noticeably colder, and wetter than White Rock in the winter, while in the summer the average temperature is in Packwood is the same and White Pass is noticabley colder than White Rock in the summer.

    I understand you cannot explain the phenomenon of how these trees can survive extreme arctic temperatures yet fail to thrive in the sunny, dry, well-drained climes of White Rock--which is right on the Ocean. Past this point we should consider abandoning educated guesses and hope a species expert weighs in. My experience with science is limited, but from what I understand of it, the method can produce clear answers.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2006
  18. sweetlemon

    sweetlemon Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    While I've never seen them growing at 3,000 ft. elevation, I have seen them growing on Mt. Arrowsmith (north of Nanaimo) much higher than I would have imagined them to grow. The soil there is of course extremely well-drained and acidic, but rainfall is relatively high compared to say, Victoria, Nanaimo or even close-by Parksville. I think Ian might be right regarding competition - Arbutus trees don't mind dry soil and summer drought, therefore they are able to outcompete faster-growing species in areas where these conditions dominate. Anywhere with dry summers, really poorly drained, acidic soil and relatively benign temperatures is bound to have a few arbutus trees (at least here on the west coast).

    As far as White Rock and South Surrey not having many...whenever I go to that area I notice the rich grass, fertile looking soil and miles and miles of farmland. Maybe the soil is too good in that area. Or maybe I'm thinking of south Delta..I must confess I haven't spent much time in White Rock. It could also be a matter of development..White Rock is pretty built up, who knows if there were significant stands of arbutus prior to suburbanization?

    As for how much summer heat they can take, the asnwer is..a lot. Up close to 50C, apparently. They grow in some canyons in California where temperatures have and often do reach into the mid to upper 40s Celsius. This is of course anecdotal, but I wouldn't doubt it since anything that can survive on a sheer south-facing piece of rock in Nanoose Bay simply seems like it must be heat hardy.

    (By the way I'm intrigued by those Scottish arbutus trees and would love to see them for myself!)
     
  19. sweetlemon

    sweetlemon Member

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    Well, -28C is cold, but not quite as cold as you may think. Vancouver Int'l Airport has gone down to -19C, I believe; Victoria Airport has hit -16C. Also, I think Ian is stating that the temperature in these areas has gone that low, not that it does on a regular basis.
     
  20. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    sweetlemon.
    I used to live in South Delta. Most of the soil there is rich and often clay like aside from the immediate beach areas. Very few Arbutus/Madrone are in this region and the few that are there where probably planted by home owners. There used to be quick-sand warnings posted on the north end of Boundary Bay. All this are very poor conditions for them to grow.

    Cheers, LPN.
     
  21. Michael Zinck

    Michael Zinck Active Member

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    Arbutus in PEI - October news

    Group,

    I want to thank all the contributers to this thread. No need to worry about being harsh, let's be honest, this, my planting an arbutus in PEI is not something you would want to bet your money on.

    As of today CB has been wrapped in burlap to help protect him over the winter. To date we have had several frosts though temperatures have yet to drop below 0c (32f), but we are getting close. Daytime highs are staying in the lower teens, which by our standards is a pleasant day.

    What I am hoping is that we have an early snow. CB is planted in an area that is along my snowdrift line from northeast storms. My hope is it gets covered by a snow drift early and stays covered. This works well for my rhododendron. It is the leaves being exposed to bitterly cold February winds that damage the Rhodo bush, not the snow. In fact in some winters I have this half green/half brown Rhodo bush. What will be hard is the fast rise in temperatue, fast snow melt then flash freezing for the next 2 weeks.

    In regards to frost we build basements to 8 feet to get under the 6 foot frost line maximum. However, the last winters we simply are not getting the deep colds. I know this because the contractors build homes almost all winter, years ago they stopped in mid-November and restarted in late March. Now you see home being started in February, that tells you there is not much frost and the days are warmer.

    Yes I am hoping for a mild winter or at best good early snow. If we get early snow the frost won't get in too deep, if we just have a slow freeze down, then by December the frost could be 1 to 2 feet deep. That I think will put some of you in the money :-) .

    So far so good. I will keep you posted.

    Michael
     
  22. Michael Zinck

    Michael Zinck Active Member

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    Re: Arbutus in PEI - November

    Group;

    CB remains well under his burlap wrap as of November 18th. Temperatures have not yet fallen very low. We have had one week near 0c since my last report but since then temperatures have been in the low to mid teems. Today it is sunny and 13c. Temperatures are expected to return to seasonal lows next week. There is no frost in the ground and lawn is actually green.

    There is one bud at the top of the tree, it did start to grow but the cooler weather put a stop to that. Leaves remain green with some black spotting.

    So far so good. Michael
     
  23. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    These have weathered the worst the west coast can offer, which is colder than what you've reported so far. Wrapping the tree in burlap may prove to be more harm than good.

    Cheers, LPN.
     
  24. Michael Zinck

    Michael Zinck Active Member

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    LPN,

    I wrapped CB because I thought it might help with the snow drift and to keep some of the snow from weighing it down, especially if we have a thaw and freeze in late February - early March. There is still plenty of light flowing through the burlap. I also have a 4 foot driveway marker in front of it so no one walks on him or drives over him with a snowmobile, if we get lots of snow.

    I will keep you posted. Michael
     
  25. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Re: Arbustus in PEI

    "drives over him with a snowmobile," I had to chuckle at that one. It's funny from my perspective.
    In the previous post I thought you might not want to over protect your Arbutus/Madrone.

    Cheers, LPN.
     

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