Arthur W. Headlam, Bentleigh, Australia
Photo by Arthur Headlum
Rhododendron fulvum, Series Fulvum, is an interesting species which grows extremely well in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne. The large leaves have a double attraction, the bright cinnamon colored indumentum, which may be seen alternating with the dark green above as they are stirred by the wind. The funnel campanulate flowers, from fifteen to eighteen to the truss, are white flushed rose.
R. fulvum is one of the species which, as soon as the temperature drops, curls up its leaves and they point downwards. However, as soon as the temperature rises they quickly unfurl. This characteristic is retained in Australia even though the temperature, rarely fall below freezing point. Its response appears to be related to the change in temperature, for we never have the sub-zero temperatures which are common in many other parts of the world. Perhaps in some climates it would be cheerfully unfurling its leaves when the thermometer rose to a few degrees above freezing point.
An interesting phenomenon in the Linden Gardens, Mount Dandenong, occurred during the severe drought of summer 1967, when R. fulvum curled up its leaves during periods of excessive heat when the ground was dry and parched. However, on this occasion the leaves pointed skywards as if in protest against the trying conditions. As soon as the welcome rains came in the fall, the leaves reverted to their normal position.