Arizona Madrone (Arbutus arizonica)

Map of Arizona. Counties are colored green where the species may be found.
Arbutus arizonica range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

Arbutus red branches of new growth.
Arbutus red branches of new growth.

Arbutus gray checkered bark.
Arbutus gray checkered bark.

Flowers of Arizona madrone.
Flowers of Arizona madrone.

Most people are familiar with manzanitas, a common shrub with reddish bark, with a wide distribution in the mountains of the west. This is an unusual member of that same family (Ericaceae).

Arizona madrone is a small tree, sometimes a large shrub, found in the mountains of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northern Mexico. It can reach heights of 50 feet.

The trunks of these trees are gray and checkered, and the branches are reddish with smooth bark. The leaves are lanceolate to elliptic, 1.5 to 3 inches long, 0.5 to 1 inches wide; blades light green, glossy above, pale green below, and smooth. The flowers are urn-shaped, white, and clustered at the branch tips from April to September. The fruits are semi-fleshy, orange, and edible.

Arizona madrones are found in canyon bottoms and hillsides in oak-pine zone at elevations of 4,000 to 8,200 ft. Look for this handsome tree while hiking in the mountains.