Ensure preservation of beautiful waterfront trees l Guest View

By Jean Skerlong, Mukilteo Way Garden Club | Mar 14, 2018

When George Vancouver sailed through Puget Sound in May of 1792, he was accompanied by the famous botanist Archibald Menzies, who wrote about our native Arbutus tree, which now carries his name (Arbutus Menziesii).

Many of us now refer to this tree as a Madrone, or a Madrona tree.

Because of its common habitat along the shoreline, Menzies wrote they stood out with its, “large clusters of whitish flowers and evergreen leaves, but its peculiar smooth bark of a reddish brown color will at times attract the notice of the most superficial observer.”

I have personally noticed this lovely tree while walking along our waterfront between the NOAA building and Edgewater Park, and have counted more than 40 Madronas growing along the cement walls that are the remnants of the old tank farm.

Many of the Madronas are still quite small, shorter than I am. Some are midsize and some are between 40 and 50 feet high.

These taller ones are situated at what is the foot of Japanese Gulch Creek. You can see the trees while you cross over the railroad tracks at Mt. Baker Ave. that takes you to the parking lot at Edgewater Park.

The Madronas are all on the waterside of the cement walls, yet the evergreen leaves stand tall above them even on cold winter days.

Madronas grow happily along the waterfront, unbothered by the strong winds or the occasional salt spray. They tolerate wet winters and dry summers and provide stability to the area and prevent erosion. The flowers are a nectar source for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The berries that ripen during the fall are food for numerous bird species.

Birds drop the fruits’ seeds that find space to germinate in these seaside locations. Once becoming established, they resent transplantation and quickly die. It is often said that after a Madrona reaches 12 inches tall, it will not survive being moved or replanted.

Rather, they seem to thrive on neglect.

Mother Nature seems to be telling us something about these trees, which are in decline because of the loss of native habitat.

As the plans for the new ferry terminal evolve, it would be nice to see these native trees remain where they are growing.

Now is the time to review the landscaping plans and make sure that a large number of these trees can remain in our city.

Hopefully, there will be many of these 40-plus trees that can carry on feeding the birds, attracting the butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as bringing enjoyment to the people who frequent our waterfront.

Mukilteo is a certified Wildlife Habitat, thus we wish to preserve the trees that are most appropriate to this area.

Too often municipal project directives tend to bulldoze whole areas and start from scratch, place little plants all in a row and wait years for them to fill in.

The expense of soil preparation, installation of irrigation, purchase of plants, and ongoing maintenance to establish new areas is costly as well as in this case, unnecessary.

By preserving these large, well-established evergreen trees, thousands of dollars can be saved.

Yes, some cleanup of weeds around them would enhance their current beauty, and an application of mulch to keep the weeds from their quick return would be the sound horticultural practice.

We kindly ask the city and Washington State Ferries to review the landscaping plans and ensure that a large number of these beautiful trees can remain as is.

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