Rhododendron – Beauty or Beast?

Rhododendron is a large genus of flowering shrubs, so long regarded as beautiful that they earned a name that means “rose tree” in classical Greek.

Certainly, there are many beauties that make spectacular and well-behaved garden plants. Unfortunately, one species, Rhododendron ponticum, is far from well-behaved.

It’s not native to the British Isles but was introduced in the mid-18th century. At first, it was a novelty for gardens, but some landowners planted it as cover for game birds.

It liked our climate and took off with a vengeance, spreading by seed and by rooting wherever low branches touch the soil.

But the dense, spreading canopy casts so much shade that it stops the germination of our natural woodland plants, even the trees that are necessary to replace those lost to storms. Given time, it will destroy the wood completely.

So, Rhododendron ponticum isn’t a beauty, it’s a beast.

The leaves are toxic to herbivores, so it can’t be controlled by grazing, and the leaves’ waxy coating prevents the effective use of herbicides.

Physical removal is the only option, and if you’d like to see Fox Hill preserved for future generations, why not come and lend a hand. Visit our Events calendar for registration details.