The Sacred Strawberry Trees

Updated: Feb 22

The Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii. also known as the strawberry tree due to its brightly colored fruit.

Never Burned By Natives

To the Rogue natives that lived in the Riverpass, Madrone was considered too sacred to be burned as firewood. Having been the tree they could fasten their canoes upon, during the great flood recorded in nearly all ancient histories.

During the Spring, guests have asked about the lovely scent that floats on the breeze, some have thought it to be a ladies perfume. When the scent is caught, it is always unexpected, and is so pleasant that you may stop moving immediately, so as not to lose the forest fragrance. It is none other than the small clusters of lightly colored bell shaped flowers of the Pacific Madrone. A tree that stands out anywhere.

The tree has more to offer than it's beauty, the large leaves and bark can be used to make tea for treating stomach ailments. The berries can be eaten, yet are not nearly as sweet as they look, and they are fairly dry as well. They do make a decent cider as the natives favored. The berries were also used to make excellent beads since they become stone hard and will not easily decay.

An old native trick was to hand a newcomer a piece of Madrone leaf while chewing up a piece himself. Then encouraging the newbie to do the same, proclaiming it to be a test of manhood if he could chew it up completely.

This was very hard to do, since your mouth becomes very dry due to the extreme bitterness of the leaves. So bitter and mouth-drying in fact, it is hard to gather any saliva to spit it out. An excellent test of manhood, indeed!

The most interesting trees at Riverpass are all Madrones. With their glossy leaves, smooth trunks, hollow centers, and twisted unique growth it is easy to see why.

Some Riverpass Madrones are several hundred years old and are the favorite trees of most visitors. The largest Madrone at Riverpass is a seven trunked giant, 'the Seven Sisters', visible to the west of the Pioneer cabin site. They are actually daughter trees that form a ring around what was an ancient single mother. Where only a depression in the ground marks where she stood.

For those that would love to have their very own Madrone growing in their yard, may be disappointed. The Madrone is considered by professionals to be one of the harder trees to transplant. It must be aligned correctly North/South to it's original location, as well as having a rocky dry substrate to grow in. If established, the tree will not tolerate help from humans for anything. Many well meaning gardeners have killed their Madrone by simply offering it a drink of water in the summertime.

Madrone thrive in the rocky sunny patches of the Douglas Fir, Oak, Madrone, Maple forests of the Pacific Northwest. The Madrone will twist and turn more than other trees in the forest as it seeks out the sunniest spots to grow. Occasionally we have authentic and organic Madrone berry bead necklaces and bracelets available in the Riverpass Shop. Now you can wear a stylish sustainable piece of the Riverpass history with you where ever you go.

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