Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Sacred Geometry

The bark that needs no introduction. 

I first heard of madrone in a botany class at Santa Barbara City College, where Arbutus menziesii was spoken of with the kind of reverence reserved for exotic treasure. Even both parts of the Latin name are fun to say: Ar-byoo-tus and men-zeezy-eye. (I can imagine "B-Yootus" or "Zeezy-eye" being good names for a rapper.) 

Madrone was exotic treasure from my vantage point in Santa Barbara. Its southern limit is on Mt. Palomar in San Diego County, but I don't recall seeing them in Santa Barbara (although a range map does show them there), and I associated madrone with mysterious Northern California which I looked forward to exploring someday. Now I live within a block or two of ornamental madrones called strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) and see Pacific madrones any weekend on Mt. Tamalpais, but their special aura remains.

I like how moss tries to colonize the bark of madrone, but can only get so far before the bark peels off in curls. Right now the exposed trunk is a smooth golden brown, but I've seen it become a beautiful shade of green in the summer. I also associate madrone berries with a favorite bird, the band-tailed pigeon (the beautiful wild cousins of smaller urban pigeons), which my recent trail cams frequently caught bathing, and which I first noticed years ago when I spooked a large flock out of the canopy of a madrone on Mt. Tam where they'd been feeding on its dense clusters of bright red berries.

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