Our manzanita comes from the Pacific Northwest, which is a little different environment than where a lot of manzanita suppliers get their manzanita branches. On our land where it is harvested, it grows in the low elevation forests where large trees like pine and Douglas fir are the naturally dominant trees. Since humans stated suppressing natural wildfires, the manzanita has become severely overgrown among them.
The manzanita is more of an understory shrub that competes with the larger trees for water and nutrients. Thinning the manzanita away from these larger trees helps to create a more natural healthy forest. A forest more similar to what existed for thousands of years before about a century ago when humans started suppressing the natural wildfires that kept the manzanita in check.
Wildfire has long been a natural part of the forest ecology in the West. Lightning sparked fires would go through the forest every few years and clean up the forest. The large trees like Douglas fir and ponderosa pine have thick bark that protects them form the low ground fires. Most of the branches and foliage in these larger trees is held high in the trees are out of the reach of the flames. After a cleansing fire passes through, a nutrient rich layer of ash is left behind to nourish the forest. Any buildup of dead woody debris and underbrush, including manzanita would normally be consumed.
Manzanita seeds can lay dormant in the soil for decades, and when there is a soil disturbance, like wildfire or timber harvesting, they quickly sprout into new manzanita trees. They grow back quickly and reseed within a few years before enough fuel builds up to support another wildfire.
In this area manzanita would naturally grow with a short life cycle. But around a century ago, humans started suppressing wildfires. It started with good intentions, but the result has created unnatural conditions in the forest. Without regular fires to clean up the forests, manzanita, other shrubs and small trees have been able to grow up into unnaturally thick conditions creating huge fire danger.
Now when we do get a wildfire, the thick growth has created a huge fuel source that makes the fires explode into fire storms. These fires often consume the entire forests including the large trees that would normally survive the more natural ground fires of the past. The overgrown manzanita also competes with the large trees for water and nutrients. This makes the large fir and pine susceptible to dying from bark beetles and drought.
I created this website and got into the business of selling manzanita products as a way to fund the thinning of the manzanita to return the forests to a more natural state. Thinning the manzanita away from the large fir and pines allows the remaining trees to grow faster and makes the forest more fire safe and disease resistant. The manzanita still reseeds itself and they do grow back so I can harvest them periodically the same way that fire would naturally.
When you buy manzanita from me you are helping restore the forests back to more natural conditions. and contributing to making the forests safe from being consumed by wildfire and bark beetles. At the same time you are getting a sustainable grown valuable product that you can enjoy.
Most manzanita branches on the market come from Southern California and Mexico where there are environmental concerns about harvesting manzanita.. They grow in much drier climates where it grows back much more slowly than it does here in wet climate in the Northwest. In many cases they don’t have the large trees like fir and pine, and instead the manzanita is the naturally dominant species. In many areas there is a lot of concern about removing the slow growing dominant trees to make manzanita products. There are also cases of theft from public land. So check with your sources to make sure they are harvesting responsibly.