Publication Date October 10, 2016

Giant Pacific madrone is a likely victim of Soberanes Fire

United States
The largest madrone tree in the United States in 2007 (left) and in 2016 (right). The tree, located in Joshua Creek Canyon Ecological Reserve in Monterey County, was severely burned in the Soberanes Fire. Photo: California Department Of Fish And Wildlife

The Pacific madrone is a stately tree, flourishing on the California coast with its big, broad, evergreen leaves and distinguishing red, exfoliating bark. But one madrone towers above the rest — or did.

A giant in Big Sur registered as the largest of its kind in the nation appears to be a casualty of the devastating Soberanes Fire.

The tree, which measured 125 feet tall and more than 25 feet around, lost at least one of the large, crooked trunks that provided its extraordinary girth when flames tore through the state-managed Joshua Creek Canyon Ecological Reserve.

“Undoubtedly, that tree has seen other fires, but it just didn’t make it this time,” said Jeff Cann, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who confirmed the fate of the madrone. “You just don’t see many large ones like that one.”