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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Plant of the Month: Rhododendrons

Plant of the Month: Rhododendrons

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, February 19, 2018/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, sustainability, environment, plants

                           Rhododendron sinonuttallii, Yunnan, China  (credit: SWP Media)

Rhododendrons (rhodies) are found from Europe to Asia to North American and from the tropics to high mountains, even as groundcovers in the Arctic. Some are spreading shrubs, others grow into huge trees, and some are epiphytes that grow in mountain cloud forests. The diverse genus of woody plants has over 1000 known species and new ones are still being discovered, particularly in the high mountains of southeast Asia in the borderlands of China and Tibet. Rhododendrons have been popular for generations of gardeners as well as trekkers on Himalayan trails where their huge blooms are recognized as Nepal's national flower.

   Rhododendron excellens, Yunnan, China and Rhododendron Ellottii, NE Indian Himalayas (credit: SWP Media)

Many rhododendrons species are now threatened or endangered by deforestation in their native habitats, particularly in the Himalayas. The Rhododendron Species Foundatation maintains the largest collection of wild rhododendron in North America, now consisting of more than 700 identified species. The organization's goal is to promote the conservation, research, acquisition, cultivation, display, and distribution of rhodies to growers worldwide. Situationed on land donated by the Weyerhaeuser Company near Seattle, Washington, the RSF is a unique resource for scientific, horticultural, and gardening communities everywhere. When in bloom, the Foundation's forested landscape creates a site of stunning color, form, and diversity for this remarkable group of woody plants.



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