QBARS - v19n3 The Genus Rhododendron: A Unique Program

The Genus Rhododendron: A Unique Program
by Mary Fleming, New City, N.Y.
Technical Assistant in the Cryptogamic Herbarium
The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx Park, New York

Mary has special interest in lichens. She is founder member, ex-director, ex-secretary-treasurer of the New York Chapter; ex-vice president, member of the New Jersey Chapter; director, acting secretary-treasurer of the Tappan Zee Chapter.

The genus Rhododendron comprises a diverse and varied group of plants. For convenience the botanist has divided them into series and subseries. In 1923 E. H. Wilding wrote Rhododendrons, Their Names and Addresses, a pocket-sized book briefly describing the author, discoverer, date, place of origin, height of plant and color of flowers, and series of approximately seven hundred and twenty-five species, "to permit of a ready reference to the species of the genus Rhododendron." Seven years later the Rhododendron Society of Great Britain published The Species of Rhododendron, "to provide a useful handbook to the species of Rhododendron ... a single-page description of each species, and to attempt to group the species into series so as to facilitate understanding and recognition." Eight hundred and thirty-one species were thus described.
In 1936 Clement G. Bowers published his Rhododendrons and Azaleas: Their Origins, Cultivation and Development . This brought together for the first time in a single book all the then known species and hybrid rhododendrons. His indexed bibliography of about one hundred and sixty literature citations in widely scattered publications attested to the need for a book particularly useful for the grower of rhododendrons. A second edition was published in 1960. David G. Leach's outstandingly beautiful Rhododendrons of the World and How to Grow Them was published in 1961. For the azaleas there is Frederic P. Lee's The Azalea Book (1958).
In the early nineteen-fifties Bowers' book long out-of-print brought a handsome price when it could be located for sale. At this time I was arranging programs for chapter meetings and the thought occurred to me that a presentation of the series of Rhododendron in small regular doses would be digestible as well as illuming. The idea was discussed with Mr. G. G. Nearing who consented to deliver one-half hour lectures to the members of the Tappan Zee Chapter. The initial meeting was on February 28, 1962 and Mr. Nearing's title was "Three Main Kinds of Rhododendron." His talk illustrated the lepidote and elepidote rhododendrons, and the azaleas. Subsequent meetings were devoted to the Series Ponticum, subseries Ponticum, Caucasicum, Fortunei, Griffithianum, Orbiculare and Oreodoxa; Series Thomsonii, subseries Campylocarpum, Thomsonii and Souliei; Series Auriculatum, subseries Auriculatum and Griersonianum; Series Arboreum, subseries Arboreum and Argyrophyllum; Series Neriiflorum, subseries Haematodes, Forrestii, Neriiflorum and Sanguineum; and the most recent meeting, to a discussion of the Series Falconeri and Grande.
So far we have had eighteen lectures by Mr. Nearing. Each half-hour lecture is illustrated with Kodachrome slides taken by him in Great Britain and the United States of Rhododendron species and the hybrids developed from them, with a discussion of their origin, cultivation, propagation, hardiness, hybridization, and his own personal knowledge of them. There is a brief time for questions from the floor before the speaker of the evening is introduced. The members of the Tappan Zee Chapter are having the extraordinary experience of learning about Rhododendron species and hybrids from a botanist whom we hold in high esteem and affection. Mr. Nearing is not only a foremost grower of rhododendrons, but a natural teacher with good humor and wit.