The International Rhododendron Union
The inaugural meeting of the International Rhododendron Union took place in Seattle, Washington, on May 1, 1985. The meeting was well attended and included representatives of the national rhododendron societies of America, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Azalea Society of America, the Pacific Rhododendron Society and the Rhododendron Species Foundation were represented as were the botanic gardens of Edinburgh, Kew and Kumming.
The philosophy of the IRU developed at the International Rhododendron Conference held in New York in 1978, with the expressed need for better communication between research workers and laymen interested in the genus Rhododendron. The matter was further discussed at the International Rhododendron Conference in Edinburgh, 1982, when a steering committee was designated and assigned the task of getting an international organization "off the ground".
Briefly, the IRU is to provide a communication center to receive and distribute information relating to the Genus Rhododendron gathered from national societies, research institutions, botanic gardens and so on.
The objectives of the IRU are as follows:
1. To provide an international forum for communication about the genus Rhododendron.
2. To collate, index and distribute literature relating to Rhododendron.
3. To encourage:
(a) exploration and the introduction of new plant material from the wild
(b) research relating to Rhododendron
(c) preservation of the Rhododendron habitat.
The membership is open to any organization or individual interested in the genus Rhododendron.
At the inaugural meeting in Seattle, the proposed IRU constitution as prepared by the steering committee was discussed at length. Those present agreed to accept the stated objectives and membership clauses. The main thrust of discussion concerned funding of the organization and the amount of the proposed membership dues. It was agreed that funding is to be from donations until membership fees are determined.
Whenever possible national societies' facilities will be utilized. The boards of the national societies of America, Australia, Sweden and New Zealand have passed resolutions contributing funds towards the administration of the IRU. Other societies have indicated their willingness to assist.
At the Seattle meeting, Ralph Sangster was elected honorary Chief Executive Officer and Chris Brickell honorary Secretary-Treasurer. They have the power to co-opt other honorary officers as needed. The executive officers met in London in June, 1985, to discuss setting up the administration of the IRU and putting in motion the ground work necessary for achieving the IRU objectives.
As is the way of setting up an international organization the start is always slow. However, those who are interested in the genus Rhododendron can now look forward to improved communications on rhododendron matters.