Manzanita is known for its beautiful smooth reddish bark. But the bark is not always like this. Every year starting around May, manzanita starts shedding its old bark and replacing it with a new layer. This process can last through the summer.
If you buy manzanita during this time, it may not look the way you expected. But if you keep brushing off the shedding bark, and have a little patience, the new bark will soon turn its normal reddish colour.
Of course this is only with natural and not sandblasted manzanita, where all of the bark is totally removed.
Manzanita Sheds its Bark
Every spring manzanita starts grows a new layer of bark underneath the old layer. The new bark expands as it grows, and the wood underneath is also growing at the same time. This causes the whole stem to expand under the old bark, which is no longer living, and stretches it until it cracks. The dead outer layer rolls up into little tubes as it dries, similar to the old style lids on sardine cans, and peels away.
As the old bark flakes off, the new bark will be a greenish colour when it is first exposed. This will darken into its normal reddish colour after it is exposed to light for a few days or weeks, depending on the amount of sunlight it gets. This process starts in May, and can last through September and into October. Plants in sunnier exposures start and complete this process sooner than those in shadier locations. Around November into December, the fresh manzanita bark regains its full lustre.
This process is for live plants. Once a manzanita branch has been cut and dried, it no longer does this annual shedding. The exception is if it is cut right before the plant starts to shed. In this case the cut branch may start to peel. And sometimes will only peel half way and stop. This is why late April through May is not the best time to harvest manzanita branches.