by Bob Harms  email-here
2003 bloom
Blooming in early spring 2003
October 2008

Loss of a 30–Year–Old Madrone

A 30-year-old madrone, one that was started from seed and had long bloomed and produced fruit, died in 2008. It was planted as a tiny seedling in oak-mulched soil on the east side of a large live oak, beyond the oak's drip line, thus ensuring afternoon shade. It had seemed to defy the myth that madrones require close association with junipers to succeed. The cause of its demise remains a mystery, but I am led to suspect that the contraction of the clay soil during the drought year 2008, coming upon the heels of an exceptionally wet fall 2007, tore its deep fine roots.

This madrone had also suffered greater porcupine damage than any other, first in 2003, and finally in the winter of 2008. But the porcupines had not ringed any major trunk, and this limited damage had not generally proved fatal.

2003 porcupine damage
Porcupine damage, 2003
porcupine damage, 13 Jan 2008
January 13, 2008
[Note the scars from earlier damage.]
Damage detail

In 2006 one major trunk of the tree started dying, well above the porcupine damage. There was a deep split in the wood, visible in the detail below.

2006 dying section
Dying trunk, October 7, 2006
dying trunk detail 2006

But in spring 2007 (after the drought year 2006) everything seemed back to normal:

bloom March 2007
Bloom, March 28, 2007

The next, more extreme, drought began in 2008, along with new porcupine attacks. The tree began to show signs of something more seriously wrong in late July and by early August most of the tree had turned brown.

dead section, July 2008
Dying section, July 23, 2008
dead sections, August 2008
Additional dying sections, August 2, 2008 green leafs in center are mustang grape vines

By October 2008 the tree was completely dead [see above].

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