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Rhododendrons are among the most popular garden plants because of their extensive range of hybrids, their full palette of colours and their very diverse wild species and shapes. It is not very well little known that the plants vary in size from dwarf rhododendrons of only a few cm in height to giant bushes that can be up to 30 metres high.
The name rhododendron comes from the Greek rhodo = rose and dendron = tree.
The first rhododendrons that appeared in our part of the world were Rhodendron ferrugineum and Rhodendron hirsitum. They already adorned monasteries and castle gardens in the Alps many hundreds of years ago. Hence the name “Alpenrose”, which is still sometimes used as a collective name for rhododendrons.
Hundreds of years ago, the Japanese were already busy breeding the genus rhododendron in order to brighten up their gardens. In our part of the world, most varieties were introduced in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, but even today new species are being discovered.
Botanically, the genus rhododendron, which is part of the family of ericaceae, is divided into 8 subgenera, 12 sections and more than 50 subsections, including the approximately 1,000 wild species.
Please note that this only relates to the species that are found in the wild! In addition, breeders across the world have produced many thousands of hybrid varieties, by attempting to combine the desired characteristics of two different varieties into a single new variety.
Below you will find the classification of the genus Rhododendron.
Published on the Internet in 1998 by Herbert A. Spady
For more information on the genus Rhododendron, please refer to the book: "The Encyclopedia of Rhododendron Species" by Peter A. Cox & Kenneth N.E. Cox ISBN: 09530533 OX.