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Rhododendron dauricum

Rhododendron dauricum subsp. sichotense

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This rhododendron is native to the forest slopes of the Sihote-Ali Mountains in the Russian Far East. It grows erect to about 2 metres, with small shiny leaves smelling strongly of salami when touched. They take on red-brown winter colour in autumn.

This species is little known in the west, differing from its near relations R. dauricum and R. mucronulatum in its larger, up to 5cm wide flowers, in addition to having broader evergreen leaves which are green on the undersides. These species also have intermediate forms and the whole question of species ranking is open. Whatever the facts, the large flowers, dense foliage and good winter hardiness of this subspecies make it one of the most interesting of the new wild rhododendrons for Finland. Seed batches of several provenances have been obtained in the first decade of the 2000s direct from their natural habitat, and differences between the batches in both appearance and hardiness have already been noted.

 

Rhododendron dauricum subsp. ledebourii

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This rhododendron grows naturally in Russia’s Altai Mountains. In western literature it is often described as a local form of the Chinese Alprose (R. dauricum), but Russian authors class it as either a subspecies or even a species. Either way, it is particularly hardy and can be grown in a wide variety of places.

The small herb-scented oval leaves remain on the shrub through part of the winter, changing to a dark red-brown. Early in spring violet-red flowers appear at the ends of the shoots; individual blossoms may be 2-4 cms, with 3-8 in a cluster. In the wild the species survives as a creeping sub-shrub among lime-rich rocks or may even grow to about 2 metres on moist peat in birch and mixed forest.

In Finland, it has proved one of the hardiest of the rhododendrons, though sometimes the early flowers may be spoiled by spring frosts. In really mild winters the shrub may try to flower as early as Christmas; when this happens the spring flowering is poor.

 

Rhododendron dauricum - Dahurian rhododendron

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Rhododendron dauricum comes from East Asia. It is an upright shrub growing up to two metres at most and has leathery leaves, dark green on top and lighter underneath. Some are evergreens, others partly or fully deciduous, and the shape of the leaves and the flowers vary according to habitat. As a rule the leaves turn yellow or dark red in autumn. Most of the leaves then fall off, but some darkened leaves remain at the tips of the twigs throughout the winter and turn green again in spring.

The flowers are small and break early in spring. The amount of blossom varies from year to year. It is most abundant in sunny places but on open ground late frost may nip the breaking buds and curb the annual growth. The finest bushes are in fact below the Terrace, shaded by Macedonian pines.

The Dahurian Rhododendrons at Mustila grow to just over a metre in the Rhododendron Valley and near the Terrace and sometimes produce more blossom, sometimes less. The flowers on these old shrubs are small, 2–3 cm in diameter. The leaves of the Coastal Mountain subspecies (R. dauricum subsp. sichotense) planted quite recently in the Arboretum are rounder and broader and the flowers clearly larger, measuring 4–5.5 cm in diameter.

 

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