Letters to the Editor
I am writing to protest your taxonomic defense of your cover photograph [Summer 1998 issue] of a painting of a supposed R. mallotum. I can only suggest that the painter found a griersonianum hybrid with this name on it. H. H. Davidian correctly states an obovate leaf and if consulted further would state that it has thick bistrate indumentum of cinnamon-brown hairs. The corolla in the painting is not mallotum; it is the wrong shape and is not deeply emarginated as mallotum is. The leaf of mallotum is thick, rigid and turgid, whereas your painting has thinnish, almost chartaceous leaves which are wavy edged and lanceolate with extremely thin indumentum. I send this in the hope that other enthusiastic collectors of this wonderful genus will not be led astray into confusing this species with any other rhododendron. This species is, in fact, one of the easiest to identify with its big leaves, thick indumentum, and plagued with a parasite that makes small holes in some of the leaves every year and occurs in seemingly all gardens that grow it.
[Mr. McQuire enclosed two prints of R. mallotum, one in a painting by Lillian Snelling and one from a postcard from the Younger Botanic Garden, Benmore, showing the characteristics he describes.]
J. F. McQuire
Farnham, Surrey, England
I read Clive Justice's article entitled "Down the Rhodo Trivia Trail" in the Summer 1998 issue of the Journal and would like to correct a couple of assumptions. Leonard Frisbie was the founder of the Pacific Rhododendron Society. He filed the papers for incorporation in 1949. There were three founding members: Leonard Frisbie, president; Roy Hacanson, vice president; and Richard Gosslin, secretary/treasurer. All three worked for Pacific Northwest Bell in Puyallup.
Leonard began monthly meetings in Tacoma, Wash., training all the members in Botany 101. Minutes of those meetings are on file in the Lawrence Pierce Library at the Rhododendron Species Foundation, Federal Way, Wash. The first minutes of the collection dated 1951, are recorded as Volume 1, Number 4, and a heading reads: Third Annual Tacoma Rhododendron Show. Roy and I participated in many of those shows until 1970 when we closed our nursery. At the meetings, members experimented with propagating, and one member, Claude Parkinson (Karen Gunderson's grandfather), developed a plastic tent that anyone could set up in their own yard. A good many of us started propagating deciduous azaleas, evergreen azaleas, and a few easy to root rhododendrons that way. Leonard later imported Rhododendron species seed from the UK and distributed them among the members. Roy and I grew thousands of species seedlings and sold them by the flat at the Tacoma Chapter meetings. Leonard also imported azalea hybrid seed from New Zealand from Mr. Stead. We grew thousands of those azaleas up to blooming size.
I know that Frisbie started a chapter of the Pacific Rhododendron Society in Auburn, Wash., and in Longview, Wash. He traveled to both groups and conducted the same kind of meetings with them that he conducted in Tacoma. It was a marvelous learning experience for all of us, and he dwelt a great deal with species rhododendrons in class. I remember one evening he asked each of us in the audience to name their favorite rhododendron species. Many of our group also were members of the Tacoma Chapter, ARS, and participated in their spring shows held at the Bank of California in downtown Tacoma. In 1963, the ARS Tacoma Chapter was host to the ARS Annual Convention. Roy Hacanson was president that year. Fred Robbins sought out the manager of the Tacoma Mall before it even opened to the public and made arrangements to have an International Rhododendrons Show there in the spring of 1963. Bob and Marge Badger were show chairmen. Clive Justice and his Vancouver Chapter and folks from New Zealand brought displays. We filled the mall with rhododendrons! It was spectacular.
The Longview Rhododendron Society still exists today. The Tacoma Chapter of the Pacific Rhododendron Society continued to meet until just a few years ago, and the last of their treasury was turned over to the Rhododendron Species Foundation for our Endowment Fund in 1997.
The Pacific Rhododendron Society donated boxes of Frisbie's papers after he died to the Lawrence Pierce Library. They were filed with the help of Esther and Dr. Bill Avery, long-time members of both PRS and RSF.
In 1893 the women of Washington voted through their garden clubs to name our native Pacific Coast rhododendron the official state flower. This was before Women's Suffrage!
Leonard successfully petitioned the Washington State Legislature to change the name of our state flower from R. californicum to R. macrophyllum. I believe that was in the '50s or '60s. He also was a plant hunter in the southwest corner of Oregon and northern California seeking out many different forms of R. occidentale during the '50s and '60s. Britt Smith and Dr. Mossman relied on some of his information to find some of their collection.
President, Rhododendron Species Foundation
Federal Way, Washington