Rhodies... was Re: fox hunting

Colin Ramage colinr at DON'T.SPAM.ME.netcomuk.co.uk
Mon Jan 17 15:37:03 EST 2000

This is my first message here, so please be gentle with me *8)

I am one of the "Rhodie Bashers" so thought I'd share a bit of what
I've picked up about that nasty plant with you all. (get the feeling I
don't like them?)

Rhodedendron ponticum is the rhodie with the purple flowers running
amock through much of britain's countryside. It was indeed native to
the Himalayas and was used as an ornamental plant and game cover in
shooting woods. Also, several other ornamental varieties will tend to
revert to the ponticum species. 

Rhodedendron, though obnoxious, is a remarkable plant in the many ways
it has of protecting and reproducing itself. Each adult plant can
produce up to 1,000,000 seeds each year. These seeds are very light
and aerodynamic, so can spread for up to a mile as suggested.

Unlike many other plants, the vascular system in rhodies is divided up
so that each branch runs to one part of the roots only. This means
that if a systemic weedkiller is used and any branches are not
sprayed, they, along with their "own" roots will survive.

Rhodie roots exude a toxin which makes it extremely uncomfortable (if
not impossible) for any other plants to grow nearby. The plants are
also able to photosynthesise in only 5% light (95% shade) so soon
crowd out any other vegetation which would try and compete.

Even in fully established woodland, Rhodies are problem plants. The
toxins released at the roots put the mature trees under stress, making
them more susceptable to attack by other pathogens. Furthermore, the
dense understory they form means that any viable seeds produces by the
trees ubove will be unable to germinate and grow. As the mature trees
die out, there are no younger ones to take their place and we are left
with a monoculture of Rhododendron.

The moral of this story? Bash those rhodies *8)

Colin Ramage.
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