(Rhodora Canadensis; Rhododendron Rhodora of Gray) Heath
Flowers - Purplish pink, rose, or nearly white, 1 1/2 in. broad
or less, in clusters on short, stiff, hairy pedicels, and usually
appearing before the leaves, from scaly, terminal buds. Calyx
minute; corolla 2-lipped, upper
lip unequally 2-3 lobed; lower
lip 2-cleft; 10 stamens; pistil, the style slightly protruding.
Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, shrubby, branching. Leaves: Deciduous,
oval to oblong, dark green above, pale and hairy beneath.
Preferred Habitat - Wet hillsides, damp woods, beside sluggish
streams, cool bogs.
Flowering Season - May.
Distribution - Newfoundland to Pennsylvania mountains.
A superficial glance at this low, little, thin shrub might
mistake it for a magenta variety of the leafless Pinxter-flower.
It does its best to console the New Englanders for the scarcity
of the magnificent rhododendron, with which it was formerly
classed. The Sage of Concord, who became so enamored of it that
Massachusetts people often speak of it as "Emerson's flower,"
extols its loveliness in a sonnet:
"Rhodora! If the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being."
AMERICAN or GREAT RHODODENDRON; GREAT LAUREL; ROSE TREE, or BAY
(Rhododendron maximum) Heath family
Flowers - Rose pink, varying to white, greenish in the throat,
spotted with yellow or orange, in broad clusters set like a
bouquet among leaves, and developed from scaly, cone-like buds;
pedicels sticky-hairy. Calyx 5-parted, minute; corolla 5-lobed,
broadly bell-shaped, 2 in. broad or less usually 10 stamens,
equally spreading; pistil. Stem: Sometimes a tree attaining a
height of 40 ft., usually 6 to 20 ft., shrubby, woody. Leaves:
Evergreen, drooping in winter, leathery, dark green on both
sides, lance-oblong, 4 to 10 in. long, entire edged, narrowing
into stout petioles.
Preferred Habitat - Mountainous woodland, hillsides near streams.
Flowering Season - June-July.
Distribution - Uncommon from Ohio and New England to Nova Scotia;
abundant through the Alleghanies to Georgia.
When this most magnificent of our native shrubs covers whole
mountain sides throughout the Alleghany region with bloom, one
stands awed in the presence of such overwhelming beauty. Nowhere
else does the rhododendron attain such size or luxuriance. There
it produces a tall trunk, and towers among the trees; it spreads
its branches far and wide until they interlock and form almost
impenetrable thickets locally called "hells;" it glorifies the
loneliest mountain road with superb bouquets of its delicate
flowers set among dark, glossy foliage scarcely less attractive.
The mountain in bloom is worth travelling a thousand miles to
Farther south the more purplish-pink or lilac-flowered CAROLINA
RHODODENDRON (R. Catawbiense) flourishes. This southern shrub,
which is perfectly hardy, unlike its northern sister, has been
used by cultivators as a basis for producing the fine hybrids now
so extensively grown on lawns in this country and Europe. Crossed
with the Nepal species (R. arboreum) the best results follow.
Americans, ever too prone to make the eagle scream on their trips
abroad, need not monopolize all the glory for the cultivated
rhododendron, as they are apt to do when they see it on fine
estates in England. The Himalayas, which are covered with
rhododendrons of brighter hue than ours, furnish many of the
shrubs of commerce. Our rhododendron produces one of the hardest
and strongest of woods, weighing thirty-nine pounds per cubic
Rhododendrons, azaleas, and laurels fall under a common ban
pronounced by bee-keepers. The bees which transfer pollen from
blossom to blossom while gathering nectar, manufacture honey said
to be poisonous. Cattle know enough to let all this foliage
alone. Apparently the ants fear no more evil results from the
nectar than the bees themselves; and were it not for the sticky
parts nearest the flowers, on which they crawl to meet their
death, the blossom's true benefactors would find little
MOUNTAIN or AMERICAN LAUREL; CALICO BUSH; SPOONWOOD; CALMOUN;
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