QBARS - v22n4 Species Patriarch

Species Patriarch
Dr. Frank Mossman - Vancouver, Wash.

R. occidentale variety 'SM 190' is shown in the accompanying picture. Plant-hunter, Britt Smith, shown too, gives an idea of the present cane extent. To the tip of Mr. Smith's upraised hand measures eight feet. The bush is shown in full bloom to distinguish it from the competing alder thicket.

Trunk structure of the large plant of R. occidentale. Patriarch R. occidentale
Fig. 69.  Trunk structure of the large plant of
R. occidentale
described by Dr. Mossman.
Photo by Frank Mossman, M.D.
Fig. 70.  Britt Smith reaching to
eight  feet by patriarch
R. occidentale
Photo by Frank Mossman, M.D.

This ancient shrub-tree was catalogued in 1967 because of the numerous large, pleasing flowers, but stands out as the largest and probably oldest plant of R. occidentale we have seen. On the flats in Del Norte County, California, about two miles from the Pacific Ocean are hundreds of R. occidentale bushes. 'SM 190' grows there on the east edge of the forest. There are about thirty living stems; the largest measures eleven inches around at one foot above the ground. Cross section evaluation of similar stems puts the age between two and three hundred years. Stems or trunks come and go but the crown lives on. Young plants have crowns about the same size as the aggregate stems. This plant has a crown twelve feet in diameter from which stems grow at random, suggesting greater age than that of any single stem. Whatever the actual age of this patriarch, we have thrilled to a yearly profusion of 3 ½ inch creamy pink flowers with their distinctive orange standard and broad frilled petals. Vegetative reproductions are in the making, meanwhile selfed flowers are producing seed pods for the 1968-9 ARS seed exchange.
The Editor has asked members to send in descriptions and pictures of notably old, large or unusual rhododendron plants. The above by Dr. Mossman of the Smith-Mossman team is an excellent beginning of what might be an interesting Bulletin feature. Send along your contributions. I hope we'll have so many we can pick and choose for publication. - Ed.