JARS v57n3 - Searching for Native Rhododendrons

Searching for Native Rhododendrons
Jeannie Shields
Florence Oregon

The Siuslaw Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society is searching for native rhodies! These beautiful rhodies, officially known as Rhododendron macrophyllum , grow abundantly along the Oregon Coast and give Florence the nickname "The City of Rhododendrons." "Some of the best habitat of this wonderful species is rapidly being destroyed and some of the better forms of the plant are being lost forever as the area expands with more homes, businesses and roads," stated Everett Hall, vice president of the Siuslaw Chapter. "Development encompasses land where R. macrophyllum grows naturally," he continued. "The Siuslaw chapter wants to locate these plants, collect their seeds or take cuttings, and plant the seedlings in local parks and public spaces."

Last year, the initial year of the project, with the help of the public the chapter was fortunate to identify more than thirty-five outstanding plants from Bandon north to Yachats. "We discovered one of the whitest whites and one of the reddest reds I have ever seen," said Gene Cockeram, chairman of the project. Cockeram is asking everyone along the Oregon Coast to again help with this search for superior native rhodies. "There may be a native in your yard or your neighbor's yard; you may come by one on a walk; you may see one as you drive up or down the coast. Each plant that is collected and successfully propagated will be given a name. If it is one you find you will have the opportunity to name it," stated Cockeram.

A superior rhododendron should have large foliage and a truss composed of at least twenty flowers in the pink form. The chapter would like to look at every white form and light red form that is found regardless of how many flowers are in the truss. Along the coast most of these plants bloom in May and June, but there are forms that bloom in April and some still bloom in July. The chapter is interested in these early and late bloomers, too. Even though the Florence area is the center of the search, the collecting area will be the Oregon Coast from Lincoln City south to Bandon.

The chapter encourages everyone to help save our heritage and the native rhododendron. It is an extensive project for the Siuslaw Chapter to undertake and it will take community help and several years to accomplish. The project was initiated in 2002 and it is the goal of the chapter to have the project completed by 2007, the 100th anniversary of "The City of Rhododendrons" rhododendron festival even though newly discovered outstanding R. macrophyllum may always be added to the list.