Category Archives: madrone

“Madrones Don’t Like People”

(photos to come)

I was playing with my recorder group and then we stopped to take a breather. We had just played a difficult Shostikovich piece which I didn’t like.  Laurel rested her instrument on her knee and asked, “Tell us what’s new in Rumsey! How are your fruit trees doing?”

“Most of them are doing OK; some are struggling,” I answered. Last year I planted many young plums, apples, peaches, nectarines, cherries, pomegranates and pluots.  Gophers have eaten one or two; some have succumbed to the aridity, but most are growing slowly and surely.

“You pet them and talk to them, don’t you?” continued Laurel. She knows me.

“Well, I was embarrassed and kinda shocked to find myself kissing one of my trees the other day. I realized what I had done and stepped back, feeling rather weird.”

“What kind of tree was it?” Nancy asked, laughing.

“It was a madrone. Madrones are notoriously difficult to transplant and I just bought two of them. One was a little wilted at the top, and I was stroking it – and then without thinking about it, I leaned over and kissed it!”

Everyone laughed except Nancy who said, “Not only are they difficult to transplant…They don’t like people.”


“Well, that’s what everyone tells me. I tried growing one in my yard one year. You know, they look so beautiful with their glistening red bark when it rains. But it didn’t do well and then it died. My friends all said, ‘You can’t grow madrones anywhere near people. They just don’t like them.”

I thought about it. It’s true that madrones seem to grow only in wild woods. But what did she mean, “Everyone tells me“? Why hadn’t I ever heard this? I even went to a propagation society meeting at the SF conservatory of flowers once and asked the experts how to propagate madrones.  They weren’t interested in answering my question. I couldn’t figure it out; the speaker just shrugged me off. Maybe they’d had their own difficulties with madrones and didn’t want to admit they didn’t understand the true reason.

I had once heard another tree story that I found odd, about persimmons. I planted one in my yard in Mill Valley and it died soon afterward. A neighbor stopped by to tell me I had planted it in the wrong direction. Wrong direction? I asked. “Yes, you have to plant the grafting joint pointing due East. You’ve planted it in another direction. It will never grow.” ?!!

Irma asked, “So, what did the madrone do after you kissed it?”

“It just stood there.”

John added, “Well, you’d best plant it far from humans.”

Too late for that. I’ve potted it up near my front door. I’ll let you know how it goes.