A show-off amidst the redwoods When botanist Archibald Menzies first spotted what came to be called madrone at Port Discovery, California, in the spring of 1792, he was impressed. He dubbed the tree an ornament of the otherwise dark conifer forest that "will at all times attract the notice of the most superficial observer." Later, naturalist John Muir likened the standout madrone to a lost wanderer from the magnolia groves of the South. Both observers were accurate. Madrone-with its smooth, orangish bark, green leathery, magnolia-like leaves, and spreading countenance, appears quite dissimilar from its towering neighbors. And its wood stands alone, too. Woodworkers familiar with madrone cringe at the thought that the wood once was sought solely as the most suitable source for charcoal to produce gunpowder. That's because madrone proves to be a handsome, fine-textured furniture- and cabinet-class stock that produces a luster few woods can match. To the joy of woodturners, madrone readily burls when it grows in areas that give it the opportunity for its branches to spread.
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