Walk in the Park through the Madrona Grove

Walk in the Park through the Madrona Grove

Madrona Grove

Madrona GroveMadrona Stem
Madrona StemOpen-Grown-Madrona

  Big Finn Hill Park: Madrona Grove (Arbutus menziesii)

by George Meredith and Jeanette Leach 

Within Big Finn Hill Park, west of Juanita Drive and south of 138th Street, there is a large and spectacular grove of madrona trees. The Madrona is one of the most ornamental and beautiful trees native to the Pacific Northwest. Madrona trees can grow to height of 80 feet and can live to over 200 years old. The trees flower in the spring and have red berries by the fall. Those of you that might have one in your yard know that they shed leaves and a dark red and brown bark year around. While the shedding red bark can be a maintenance nuisance at home, the same bark gives a glow to the trees in the morning sunlight.

Throughout the Pacific Northwest madrona trees are on the decline. The major reasons for the decline appear to be blight, climate change and expanding population. There are numerous fungal species that attack the madrona, however these are not a serious threat, as long as total defoliation does not occur repeatedly. The extremely dry summers we have had in the past several years have had a very negative effect on the madronas.  While the madronas within the park are protected from home and street development they can still be affected by root disturbance from trail systems.

The Finn Hill grove covers multiple acres and is divided into two separated forests. The first is a mixed forest of approximately fifty percent madrona with the balance being fir, maple and cedar. This surrounds a center area of ninety percent madrona trees which by definition is considered a pure grove.

The health of the Finn Hill grove is not encouraging. An estimated thirty percent of the standing trees are dead. Many of the trees are showing signs of stress with dying branches and in some cases major trunks have died off. The leaf foliage is restricted to the very tops and is much less then would be expected for healthy trees. Most concerning is the lack of any seedlings or young trees within the grove. While the above sounds a bit bleak, it is still a magnificent grove and one worth visiting.

The advisory committee on Finn Hill Park trails has identified the madrona grove as area to be highlighted and show cased, however, because of the environmental concerns, no recommendations for trails have yet been made. One recommendation that has been made is that an arborist conduct a review of the grove and possibly make recommendations for making it a sustainable forest.

I would encourage all of you to visit this grove as individuals or as a group (please see the map). If there is interest I am sure one of the trail committee members would sponsor a walk about through the grove which would take about one hour to complete.


Map of Madrona Grove's location

Map of Madrona Grove’s location


Two Guided Walk Throughs to the Grove are scheduled, please join. Contact Jeanette for more information: jeanette@finnhillalliance.org

3/12 Tuesday at 10:00 AM, please be prompt to start the walk

3/16 Saturday at 10:00 AM, please be prompt to start the walk

Where to Meet:   Take Juanita Drive to NE138th PL. Meet at “kiosk”
If coming from the center of Kirkland turn left (west) on 138th and you’ll quickly see a kiosk on the left. We’ll meet at the kiosk.
PARKING: There is a little bit of gravel parking on the north side of 138th. Otherwise, parking requires using the neighborhood streets just to the west of the kiosk. Neighbors can be sensitive to park user parking, so be careful not to block gates, driveways etc.

3 Responses to “Walk in the Park through the Madrona Grove”

  1. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

    Excellent post: I might make the 3/12 walk, might see y’all on our old guy ride on the 16th. On our last committee visit to the grove, KC Parks staffer Dave Kimmett was pretty sure they’d get one of their arborists to do an assessment. Dave’s assessment, as a former forester, was that the trees were pretty par for the region and that maybe taking out 5 or 10 of the bigger firs to let more light in might help the madronas. There are several really nice specimens outside the grove as well, and I hope there will be a large map on the new kiosk that highlights those located on or near the trails.

    • Jeanette Leach says:

      Thanks for the comments Tom. You are very welcome to join us on the 12th. Perhaps with many eyes we’ll find some baby Arbutus.

  2. Scott Morris says:

    George And Jeanette:

    Thanks for the excellent article. When we moved to Finn Hill about 16 years ago, there were several impressive madronas on our and our neighbors’ properties. Most are gone now, sad to say. I won’t be able to join your walking tours this week, but I will wander over to the grove next the weekend. I’d like to see the madronas while they are still alive. I hope someone at the UW Forestry Dept or WSU will figure out what we can do to save or revive these beautiful trees.