From the Editor
Mount Vernon, Washington
The marvelous variety within the genus Rhododendron can keep us, as gardeners, enthralled with these plants for years or even a lifetime. Their range of plant form, foliage texture, and flower color gives limitless possibility for use in the garden. Often, while capitalizing on this variety in our own gardens, we begin to wonder how it came to be that so many species of this genus exist and grow wild in such diverse areas of the globe. Our questions seem simple enough, but the answers have not always been forthcoming. Recently, however, scientists have turned their attention to the genetic makeup of the genus and are beginning to find answers to our questions. DNA research, primarily, is providing the long awaited answers. The problem for us gardeners is that while our questions are simple ones, the answers are the result of technical procedures and data interpretations beyond the general knowledge of many of us. However, rather than hiding this exciting information in technical journals, a number of scientists, some of whom have received grants from the ARS, are generously doing their best to interpret these new findings so that we as lay persons can understand them. I urge readers to meet these scientists halfway and make the attempt to understand their articles.
In this issue of the Journal, our ARS Research Committee chairman, Dr. Benjamin Hall, a botanist at the University of Washington, has kindly offered to present an introduction to the subject to pave the way for our understanding upcoming articles on rhododendron genetics in the spring and summer issues. His article "DNA Changes Accompanying the Evolution of Plant Species" appears in this issue.