Rhododendron Bloom Report: June 15, 2018

Hey Folks,

Here it is again-halfway through June and not much is happening at the Rhododendron Grove in the way of blooms yet. They will come in a month or so – this species normally blooms around the middle of July, almost a month later than the hybridized cultivars that are common and visible in landscaped plantings, and are just now beginning to fade in most places nearby.

The native “Rhododendron maximus” that is found at Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, NH is a very different plant from the more common rhododendron bushes seen in yards and by houses throughout this country. Native to New England as well as other regions, here it adapted to the shady and moist environment that we are so familiar with. Unlike the “store-bought” cultivars, it does not require as much sunlight to bloom. Ironically, though, the most blooms are found in the sunnier spots in the grove: up higher and in “clearings” such as by the bridge at the back of the .6 mile rhodo loop.

My prediction for this year’s bloom is that it will be on the light side (of course I’m always right, eh?), so keep tuned as the season progresses for any changes I might proclaim. Why is it looking like such a sparse bloom this year? Generally, it’s a mystery, but here are a few ideas:

  • Last summer was very dry – this is when next years flower buds are formed – the amount of moisture available can have a profound effect on the development of any plant.
  • Flowers are very energy intensive to produce – remember that these plants have not been selected and hybridized by humans – they have adapted quite well to spreading by cloning (non-sexual reproduction). This can be accomplished easily by a stem bending over and taking root, resulting in another whole plant. So, who needs flowers? Well, in order to keep the gene pool intact, generally all plants need to flower and make seeds sometime (the true sexual reproduction that leads to needed diversity that cloning will not do).
  • Last year, in spite of my spouting off about the poor show at the grove, it turned out to be ok – all that energy spent on the flowers might mean a long resting period – think of Oak trees as a good example and the way they often take break for a few years to produce a big mast (acorns) after a large year.

Before you all nod off from my rantings take a look at these pictures:

These are young leaves from this spring that will not bloom this year.
A flower bud that will bloom this July
Husks from the flowers of July 2017, flower bud that will bloom this year, and leaf buds that will not bloom this year
A view of the “tunnel-like” path in the grove

Until next week,
Ted Lenk

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Ted Lenk

Ted Lenk is a Park Staffer at Monadnock State Park who also checks in regularly at Rhododendron State Park.

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