The Pacific madrone, Arbutus menziesii, is a tree native to the northwest coast region. It's fairly unusual in a number of ways. For starters, its closest relatives are heather and a bunch of other low-growing plants. You'd probably never guess, except for the flowers, which are tiny and urn-shaped just like the rest of the Ericaceae family. It's also the only broad-leafed evergreen tree native to the northwest.
But what makes the madrone really distinctive to the eye is its bark. It peels. A lot. "Exfoliating" is the official term. The stuff just curls up and pops off as a matter of course. It's perfectly normal and healthy for these trees.
Often, as in the picture above, there's just one layer of old bark, typically a rich reddish brown, that's peeling off to expose a new layer of inner bark that is temporarily smooth and green. But sometimes, as in the picture below, there will be two or even three layers of various ages, all peeling off in a jumble of curls.
Despite the wide range of these trees along the Pacific Coast, they're actually pretty persnickety about the conditions under which they'll grow. On a quick scan of the web, I found one article talking about how hard they are to transplant -- to the extent that good greenhouses will mark their seedlings as to which side goes north!
Ken, you'll be happy to hear that this same article says
Another article speaks of the madrone being in serious decline, with the reasons being unclear, but noting that "over 83 fungi and 15 chewing insects are involved" and "the relationship between living and non-living factors would appear to be more finely balance with the Madrone than with almost all other plants on the [San Juan] islands".One theory to explain why madrones are so difficult to transplant is that they rely heavily on a complex relationship with fungal filaments in the soil. These fungal filaments grow together with plant roots to form extensive networks called myccorhizae. These bring additional water and nutrients to the plant. Myccorhizae can increase the working surface area of the roots by as much as a thousand-fold.
These pictures are from southern Oregon, near the little town of Gold Hill on the Rogue River.