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Rhododendron
Rhododendron-by-eiffel-public-domain-20040617.jpg
Rhododendron ponticum
Scientific classification
Unranked: Angiosperms
Unranked: Eudicots
Unranked: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Rhododendron
L.
Subgenera

Source: RBG, Edinburgh

Rhododendron is a genus of over 1000 species of woody plants in the heath family, most with showy flowers. It includes the plants known to gardeners as azaleas.

DescriptionEdit

Rhododendron is a genus characterized by shrubs and small to (rarely) large trees, the smallest species growing to 10–100 cm tall, and the largest, R. giganteum, reported to over 30 m tall.[1] The leaves are spirally arranged; leaf size can range from 1–2 cm to over 50 cm, exceptionally 100 cm in R. sinogrande. They may be either evergreen or deciduous. In some species the underside of the leaves is covered with scales (lepidote) or hairs (indumentum). Some of the best known species are noted for their many clusters of large flowers. There are alpine species with small flowers and small leaves, and tropical species such as section Vireya that often grow as epiphytes. Species in this genus may be part of the heath complex in oak-heath forests in eastern North America. [2][3]

TaxonomyEdit

Rhododendron wardii var puralbum

Rhododendron wardii var. puralbum

Rhododendron&Vast ocean of clouds、コバノミツバツツジ&篠山盆地雲海、盃ヶ岳4256293

Rhododendron in Japan

The species are organized by subgenus, section, subsection and series.

SubdivisionsEdit

SubgeneraEdit

There are four large and four small subgenera:

SpeciesEdit

Species include:

HybridsEdit

Rhododendrons are extensively hybridized in cultivation, and natural hybrids often occur in areas where species ranges overlap. There are over 28,000 cultivars of Rhododendron in the International Rhododendron Registry held by the Royal Horticultural Society. Most have been bred for their flowers, but a few are of garden interest because of ornamental leaves and some for ornamental bark or stems.

ReclassificationEdit

Recent the genetic investigations have caused an ongoing realignment of species and groups within the genus, and also have caused the old genus Ledum to be reclassified within subgenus Rhododendron. Further realignment within the subgenera is currently proposed,[4][5] including the merging of subgenus Hymenanthes into subgenus Pentanthera.

EcologyEdit

DistributionEdit

File:A Unidentified Rhododendron blüte 123.jpg

Species of the genus Rhododendron occur throughout moist areas of the Northern Hemisphere and into the Southern Hemisphere in southeastern Asia and northern Australasia. No species are native to South America and Africa.[6]

The highest species diversity is found in the Himalayas from Uttarakhand, Nepal and Sikkim to Yunnan and Sichuan, with other significant areas of diversity in the mountains of Indo-China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Tropical rhododendron species range from southeast Asia to northern Australia, with 55 known species in Borneo and 164 in New Guinea.[7] Relatively fewer species occur in North America and Europe.

Invasive speciesEdit

Some species (e.g. Rhododendron ponticum in Ireland and the United Kingdom) are invasive as introduced plants, spreading in woodland areas replacing the natural understory. R. ponticum is difficult to eradicate, as its roots can make new shoots.

Insects and diseasesEdit

There are a number of insects that either target rhododendrons or will opportunistically attack them. Rhododendron borers and various weevils are major pests of rhododendrons, and many caterpillars will attack rhododendrons.

Rhododendron species are used as food plants by the larvae of some members of the Order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) (See List of Lepidoptera that feed on rhododendrons).

DiseasesEdit

Main article: List of rhododendron diseases

Major diseases include Phytophthora root rot, stem and twig fungal dieback; Ohio State University Extension provides information on maintaining health of rhododendrons.[8] Rhododendrons can easily be suffocated by other plants.

CultivationEdit

Both species and hybrid rhododendrons (including azaleas) are used extensively as ornamental plants in landscaping in many parts of the world, and many species and cultivars are grown commercially for the nursery trade. Rhododendrons are often valued in landscaping for their structure, size, flowers, and the fact that many of them are evergreen.[9] Azaleas are frequently used around foundations and occasionally as hedges, and many larger-leafed rhododendrons lend themselves well to more informal plantings and woodland gardens, or as specimen plants. In some areas, larger rhododendrons can be pruned to encourage more tree-like form, with some species such as R. arboreum and R. falconeri eventually growing to 10–15 m or more tall.[9]

Commercial growingEdit

Rhododendrons are grown commercially in many areas for sale, and are occasionally collected in the wild, a practice now rare in most areas. Larger commercial growers often ship long distances; in the United States most of them are located on the west coast (Oregon, Washington and California). Large-scale commercial growing often selects for different characteristics than hobbyist growers might, such as resistance to root rot when over-watered, ability to be forced into budding early, ease of rooting or other propagation, and saleability.[10] In the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Rhododendron flowers, have been used for some time to make popular fruit and flower wines. The industry is promoted by the state government with tax benefits, looking to promote this industry as a full fledged sub class of its economy.[11]

Planting and careEdit

Like other ericaceous plants, most rhododendrons prefer acid soils with a pH of roughly 4.5-5.5; some tropical Vireyas and a few other rhododendron species grow as epiphytes and require a planting mix similar to orchids. Rhododendrons have fibrous roots and prefer well-drained soils high in organic material. In areas with poorly-drained or alkaline soils, rhododendrons are often grown in raised beds using mediums such as composted pine bark.[12] Mulching and careful watering are important, especially before the plant is established.

Active substancesEdit

Medicinal potential Edit

It has been reported that the plant is of anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective functions against related diseases, which is probably due to its anti-oxidant efficacy sourced from flavonoids, saponins and phenolic compounds,

ToxicologyEdit

Some species of rhododendron are poisonous to grazing animals because of a toxin called grayanotoxin in their pollen and nectar. People have been known to become ill from eating honey made by bees feeding on rhododendron and azalea flowers. Xenophon described the odd behavior of Greek soldiers after having consumed honey in a village surrounded by Rhododendron ponticum during the march of the Ten Thousand in 401 BC. Pompey's soldiers reportedly suffered lethal casualties following the consumption of honey made from Rhododendron deliberately left behind by Pontic forces in 67 BC during the Third Mithridatic War. Later, it was recognized that honey resulting from these plants have a slightly hallucinogenic and laxative effect.[13] The suspect rhododendrons are Rhododendron ponticum and Rhododendron luteum (formerly Azalea pontica), both found in northern Asia Minor. Eleven similar cases have been documented in Istanbul, Turkey during the 1980s.[14] Rhododendron is extremely toxic to horses, with some animals dying within a few hours of ingesting the plant, although most horses tend to avoid it if they have access to good forage. The effects of Rhododendron ponticum was mentioned in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes as a purposed way to arrange a fake execution.[15]

CultureEdit

Symbolism Edit

Rhododendron ponticum is the state flower of Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistan Controlled Kashmir. Rhododendron arboreum (Lali Gurans) is the national flower of Nepal. Rhododendron niveum is the state tree of Sikkim in India. Rhododendron is also the state tree of the state of Uttarakhand, India.

Rhododendron catawbiense, the most widespread rhododendron of the Appalachian Mountains, is the state flower of West Virginia, and is in the Flag of West Virginia. Rhododendron macrophyllum, a widespread rhododendron of the Pacific Northwest, is the state flower of Washington.

LiteratureEdit

In Joyce's Ulysses, rhododendrons play an important role in Leopold and Molly's early courtship: Molly remembers them in her soliloquy - "the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me".

FootnotesEdit

  1. Wildeel.com, Tree rhododendrons
  2. The Natural Communities of Virginia Classification of Ecological Community Groups (Version 2.3), Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 2010
  3. Schafale, M. P. and A. S. Weakley. 1990. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina: third approximation. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.
  4. Template:Cite journal
  5. Summary of Goetsch-Eckert-Hall results
  6. About Rhododendrons. Rhododendron Species Foundation.
  7. Argent, G. Rhododendrons of subgenus Vireya. 2006. Royal Horticultural Society. ISBN 1-902896-61-0
  8. AG.ohio-state.edu
  9. 9.0 9.1 Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan
  10. Peter A. Cox (1993). The Cultivation of Rhododendrons. B. T. Batsford, London ISBN 0-7134-5630-2 (pp80-1)
  11. The-fuga-experience.com
  12. Soil information for planting rhododendrons
  13. U S Food & Drug Administration Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition Food borne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins 1992 (Bad Bug Book)
  14. Template:Cite journal
  15. http://www.aschoonerofscience.com/?p=932

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

Rhododendron societiesEdit

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