Shedding Light on a New Kind of Champion

Shedding Light on a New Kind of Champion

Out in the towering, rigid mountains of Texas grow magnificent, distinct trees that are stretching their limbs and shedding their bark. These trees are not wounded like others that may lose their bark from injury or disease; instead, they’re about to reveal new, colorful apricot shades or brassy skin tones underneath the surface. As these unique Texas madrone trees extend tall and wide, they leave their old bark behind to continue a one-of-a-kind growth process.

The Texas madrone has quite an impressive story to tell; many believe it’s thousands of years old. Scientists are astonished with this tree species because of its ability to hold its own in an ever-changing environment. Some describe the Texas madrone as relict, meaning that even as the surrounding environment transforms over time, this national champion tree continues to stay the same.  The trees’ native home has become drier and warmer than what it once used to but with its relict nature, the madrone has never migrated from its original habitat like other trees such as the longleaf pine or yellow birch.

Big tree admirers can find the national champion Texas madrone in the Chisos Mountains of Brewster County, Texas. The national champion is recorded at 27 feet tall with a 93-inch trunk circumference. Although most trees appear on the National Register of Big Trees list due to their massive size, the Texas madrone earns such recognition for different reasons.

A Champion of Its Own Kind

The Texas madrone is a champion tree by its own standards. Native to the southwest region of the United States, specifically western Texas and New Mexico, and most of Mexico, Central America and Nicaragua, madrones require low amounts of water, can tolerate the region’s high temperatures and are adaptable to many types of soil.

On average, these champions range in height from 15 to 25 feet tall, but their distinct features and beauty do not fall short. Each madrone’s size is unique to its location and weather. And although the Texas madrone may not be the largest species on the national champion list, one unique feature makes it vastly distinguished it from the rest: its bark. Each year, the madrone’s rough, exfoliating bark flakes away to reveal a glorious, smooth surface ranging in color from white and orange to shades of dark red.

The Changing of the Seasons

Now, you know that Texas madrones have been able to retain their composition in their original, native habitats for thousands of years, but they do take on a different aesthetic look throughout the changing of the seasons. Bark colors can range from white, orange, apricot, light brown or dark red. In the native land of these trees, the Texas madrones light up an otherwise dark, drab wooded area.  These champions are recognized in each season for the following unique looks:

Spring:

  • Urn-shaped, cream colored flowers
  • Flowers fill the air with a summery fragrance
  • Smooth, reddish bark

Summer:

  • Peeling bark exposing smooth skin
  • Whitish underbark

Autumn:

  • Red berries that cover the tree’s canopy
  • Peach to coral colored bark

Winter:

  • Bright green, white and red leaves
  • Large berries just in time for the holiday season
  • Dark red to chocolate bark

The next time you are hiking the mountain ranges of Texas or visiting the South American regions, be on the lookout for the distinct Texas madrone. Remember to observe the shedding bark as these national champions grow into colorful, luscious trees.

We’d love to hear about your encounters with big trees! Send stories and photos to blog@davey.com, or send us a comment below.

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