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 in the Arctic. Some are spreading shrubs, others grow into huge trees, and some are epiphytes that grow in cloud forests. The diverse genus of woody plants has over 1000 known species and new ones are still being discovered, particularly in the mountains of southwest Asia in the borderlands of China and Tibet. They have been popular for generations of gardeners and trekkers on Himalayan trails where the huge blooms are the national flower of Nepal.
Rhododendron excellens, Yunnan, China and Rhododendron Ellottii, NE Indian Himalayas (credit: SWP Media)
Many species of rhododendrons are now threatened or endangered by deforestation in their native habitats, particularly in the Himalayas. The Rhododendron Species Foundatation maintains the largest collection of rhododendron species in North America, now consisting of more than 700 of the identified species. The organization is dedicated to the conservation, research, acquisition, cultivation, display, and distribution of rhodies to growers and gardens worldwide. Situationed on land donated by the Weyerhaeuser Company, the RSF is a unique resource for scientific, horticultural, and gardening communities worldwide. When in bloom, the forested landscape creates a site of stunning color, form, and diversity for this remarkable group of plants.