Manzanita Life

The branches of manzanita twist and curl and keep branching out, as if the plant isn't sure of its own direction. Maybe that it is a logical response to the type of landscapes, such as along the California coastline or just below the ridgeline of California hills, where manzanitas live.

Although manzanitas do not spend all of their energy growing tall, they leave a different kind of impression. Manzanita branches, either broken off like bones or left as the skeleton of a dead tree, bleach white and resist decay, serving as a relic of the tree long after its last bloom.

As the living branches twist and turn, the roots make their own unique paths underground. Burls, deformed shapes where the grain becomes irregular, often form in the roots. Some of these burls grow over rocks in the soil, so that stones of the land actually become part of the tree.

Back above ground, manzanitas provide a punch of red color, summer red berries, in the neutral brown landscape of California's hottest months. The flowers bloom in winter.

Ethnobotany of Manzanitas

The berries of manzanita, as a native plant part of the California landscape for centuries, have been important to native people as an ingredient in cider, according to an exhibit at Soledad Mission. The exhibit, consisting of a number of dried plants hanging by a piece of twine, is a unique flower arrangement focused on plants from various landscapes but all important to native peoples.

Seasonally, you can try manzanita berry cider by ordering it from Juniper Ridge, a company that sells "gifts from the mountains and deserts of the West."

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