The madrona (or madrono or madrone), also known as the arbutus (but not to be confused with trailing arbutus), is a beautiful tree that is native to the Pacific Northwest. Or so I always thought. However, Webster 1913 contends it's from California, while lists it as madroƱo and says it can even be found in Mexico. I've never seen it down there. And Gorgonzola tells me that there are actually three kinds of madrona: one native to the Pacific coast, one native to Mexico, and one native Texas.

Anyway, the tree, which does not grow tall and is sometimes classified as a shrub, has lovely glossy evergreen leaves, small white flowers, and red berries. Perhaps its most striking characteristic is the dark reddish-brown bark of the madrona, which peels off in sheets to reveal a yellow-brown trunk which is smooth and looks almost like skin. The bark can be used as a source for brown dye and for tannin. The wood, which is hard, is sometimes used for making furniture.