May 26, 2018
Visit the rhododendrons at Rhododendron Flats, on a 10-minute loop walk through the forest. Lush carpets of moss keep the soil damp during the spring and early summer allowing the moisture loving rhododendron to be at its best when it flowers in June. (starting now!)
Rhododendron comes from the Greek word meaning ‘rose tree’ and indeed, the Pacific rhododendron could compete with even the showiest of the hybrid roses. Reaching a sprawling height of up to 8m, it surpasses many of its cultivated cousins.
Of the 600 different rhododendron species worldwide, only 27 varieties occur in North America.
Because of its rarity, the Pacific Rhododendron is protected by law in BC.
Where are all the others?
The Pacific rhododendron found at Rhododendron Flats and in the nearby Skagit Valley Provincial Park are an isolated population at the northern extent of their range. The nearest populations occur south of Mount Rainier and on the Olympic Peninsula. Two small isolated populations are also found on Vancouver Island near Nanaimo and Shawnigan Lake.
Why are the rhododendrons here? Studies have revealed that the Skagit Valley rhododendrons are very similar genetically to populations in Washington state. This indicates that the Skagit populations has only recently been isolated. Are they a relic of a population that was once more widely distributed or has their seed somehow found its way here from the southern populations?