Arbutus: arbutus trees

Discussion in 'Ericaceae (rhododendrons, arbutus, etc.)' started by shawn mcpherson, Jan 9, 2004.

  1. shawn mcpherson

    shawn mcpherson New Member

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    Location:
    west vancouver
    recently we purchased a home in west vancouver...i am interested in finding out how to plant/grow an arbutus tree on our property..our back yard is comprised of many large rocks/boulders..mainly sloping, some flat space...trees etc..my assumption, because of the nature of the property..that the drainage is excellent..am unsure how to plant such a tree on rocks and sporatic soil..please advise how to grow these beautiful trees and where to obtain seeds or trees themselves.thanks.
     
  2. T. Shane Freeman

    T. Shane Freeman Active Member

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    Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
    Arbutus menziesii (Pacific Madrone) is found on a variety of soils but becomes shrubby on very poor sites. Best development is attained on well-drained soils near sea level. Therefore, I would say that if your property is mostly rock-faces, your chances of developing a uniform giant aren't very good. Also, how much space are you working with. Pacific madrone's can reach 80 to 100 feet at maturity and have a dbh of over 2 feet. Thus, you will want to be sure that you are planting this tree in the right location. Try not to think what it will look like in 10 years, but in 60 years. Always plan far into the future, for the sad reality of tree's in any environment, urban or rural, is that they have a good chance of out-living their 'stork'. If you are still determined to try and grow one, you would probably have the best chance by getting your hands on some seeds and broadcasting them on the viable locations. If they begin to germinate and take, weed them out over the years to come. Planting from seed will allow the trees to tell you what location is suitable to sustain its growth!

    This species is native as an understory species in Douglas-fir and redwood forests or in assocaiton with Digger pine, ponderosa pine, amongst others. They are a dependable annual seeder and exhibit a high percentage of viability and germination in good, loose, moist soil. Therefore, you shouldn't have too much trouble finding some seed on the west-coast. Local nurseries should be able to point you in the right direction.

    T. Shane Freeman
     
  3. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Active Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    Arbutus (as it's more commonly called on the Canadian side of the 49th) is not a good understory tree in the Vancouver area. Because we are at the northern limit of its range, conditions have to be just so for plants to thrive. Two of the most important factors for optimal growth are drainage and sunlight. In West Vancouver, arbutus grow spindly and tall with shade. See this interpretive sign. Although fast-growing in California (much of the available web-based information on arbutus is American, and based on southern conditions), arbutus are much slower here, primarily because of limited moisture availability on open, necessarily well-drained sites, and the cooler, shorter growing season. Hundred foot specimens may have existed at one time, but they certainly aren't common around the Lower Mainland. On a good site, arbutus will grow to perhaps 15m in 50 years.

    Nurseries occasionally stock Arbutus menziesii, but most are gun-shy because this species is difficult to hold in containers for long periods. These plants have moisture sensitive roots, so disturbance, which can break small roots, usually quickly leads to death of the plant. Native plant specialists are more reliable suppliers, as they generally sell in smaller quantities and have more predictable annual production and sales. They are also often more careful and knowledgeable about such issues. Native plant sellers will be at the Northwest Plant Sale on April 17, here at the Botanical Garden. This is a biennial event co-hosted by the NPSBC - Native Plant Society of BC and the UBC Botanical Garden Friends of the Garden (FOGs). Watch for more information here (on the UBC site) or go to the NPSBC website.

    In general, the smaller the arbutus, the more easily it is transplanted and the more likely it will become established. Native soils that grow arbutus in this area are gravelly and this is precisely the kind of medium that suits seedlings and small plants. Growing arbutus from seed is relatively straight-forward. See this paper written by a student at the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2004
  4. westgatea

    westgatea Active Member

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    arbutus

    We had two small arbutus in pots (dug up from the hills behind us) and I contacted this forum for help in transplanting. I followed the instructions (no root disturbance etc.) and they are both flourishing! Many thanks!
     

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