Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens)

Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens)

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Common Name(s): Manzanita

Scientific Name: Arctostaphylos spp. (Arctostaphylos pungens)

Distribution: Shrubland regions of western North America

Tree Size: 3-16 ft (1-5 m) tall, 6-10 in (15-25 cm) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 57.6 lbs/ft3 (920 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .74, .92

Janka Hardness: 2,350 lbf (10,440 N)*

*Estimated hardness based on specific gravity

Modulus of Rupture: No data available

Elastic Modulus: No data available

Crushing Strength: No data available

Shrinkage: No data available

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is brownish red, sometimes with a bright orange hue. Sapwood is a pale off-white to light brown; clearly distinguished from heartwood, but not sharply demarcated. Burls and wild or swirled grain is common.

Grain/Texture: Manzanita has a fine, uniform texture with a good natural luster.

Endgrain: No data available.

Rot Resistance: No official data available, though anecdotal reports suggest that the wood is very durable and resistant to decay.

Workability: Manzanita can be difficult to machine because the tree (usually a shrub) tends to have so many defects and irregular grain. Small pieces with straight, clear grain are relatively easy to work when compared to woods of similar density. Manzanita tends to check and split if not dried with care. Turns and finishes superbly.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with Manzanita. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Manzanita is typically only a small shrub or tree, and supplies are limited to hobbyist demand. Root burls are the most common form of Manzanita offered for sale. Very small boards and turning blanks are also available occasionally. Given Manzanita’s small size, and special processing requirements, prices are understandably high.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Decorative slabs, small boxes, turned objects, and other small, specialty wood items.

Comments: The gnarled and twisted branches of Manzanita make it a favorite wood for bird perches and aquarium driftwood. However, its form as a shrub generally means that its beautiful wood is only straight enough and long enough to be used in very small projects.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

None available.


Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens)

Manzanita (sanded)

Manzanita (sealed)

Manzanita (sealed)

Manzanita (burl)

Manzanita (burl)


  1. Paul Crim August 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    #1 – I’m a woodworker (hobby type)
    #2 – I live on 2 acres with mostly manzanita, both live growing and dead still standing. All sizes from twigs up to about 6″-8″ diameter. Lengths from short to aprox. 2′-3′ straight sections. Lots of possible project sizes.

    But, I have the same problem as everyone else. It cracks when drying. I’ve tried sealing the cut ends with melted wax and drying them inside for slower drying. After about 2 weeks the cracks still show up lengthwise on all sizes.

    How do you dry this “nasty” wood and eliminate most of the cracks????

    • Michael November 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      did you ever get any answers? I’m going to start experimenting with it but looking for suggestions, at least ways that don’t work. Do you know what the moisture content was of the wood when you started drying it?

    • ejmeier November 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      Have you tried soaking them in denatured alcohol? You submerge them overnight, then take them out and let them dry per your usual routine.

      BTW, I’m not sure what you mean about “drying them inside for slower drying.” Usually indoors there’s lower humidity, which would mean that the wood would dry faster.

    • SomeDudeOnline June 11, 2015 at 11:44 pm - Reply

      You might want to try boiling the wood.

    • Arle Lommel August 24, 2016 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      Too late to help you, but I’ve had good luck drying manzanita trunk wood by promptly cutting down the pith line on a bandsaw in two planes (basically quartering it, but the quarters are uneven because the pith isn’t centered) and waxing it. If you leave the trunk intact it will check badly. You have to relieve the stress of drying by cutting it in advance.

      The good news is that manzanita typically grows strongly to one side of the pith line, so you could end up with three-quarters of the wood in one chunk of you think out how you cut it.

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