Rhododendron lapponicum is known to hybridize with Rhododendron tomentosum in Greenland, producing Rhododendron ×vanhoeffenii Abromeit[
Azalea lapponica L.
Azalea ferruginosa Pall.
Azalea parvifolia (Adams) Kuntze
Rhododendron confertissimum Nakai
Rhododendron palustre Turcz.
Rhododendron parvifolium Adams
Common Name: Lapland Rosebay
Rhododendron lapponicum is a dwarf, evergreen shrub with lower branches that are often prostrate; it is raely more than 30 - 45cm tall.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental[
Although no specific mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, all parts of Rhododendron species (including the leaves, flowers and pollen) contain greater or lesser amounts of the toxic compound andromedotoxin (also known as grayanotoxin). Rarely lethal to humans (and used medicinally in some herbal disciplines), this compound causes dose-dependant overstimulation of the central nervous system with symptoms including various cardiovascular effects (mainly low blood pressure and cardiac rhythm disorders); nausea and vomiting; and a change in consciousness. The effects commence shortly after ingestion and last around two days. These effects are also transferred to honey made from the nectar of the flowers. In some parts of the world bees are used to deliberately produce a honey rich in andromedotoxin which is then eaten for its supposed medicinal, hallucinogenic and aphrodisiac effects.
In contrast to humans, many other creatures are more susceptible to the toxin and it has sometimes proved lethal to grazing animals and household pets. Some forms of honeybees are also killed by the toxin (resistant forms of the bee are used for honey production). Bumblebees are not affected, however, and are also more efficient in pollinating rhododendron flowers, so one theory is that the toxin is produced by the plant in order to favour the bumblebee and improve fertilization rates[
Northern Eurasia - Norway, Sweden Finland; Siberia & Mongolia to Japan & Korea; N. America - Alaska to Greenland, south to British Colombia & New York
Rocky barrens and sub-alpine woods[
]. Arctic regions, mountain tundra, bogs, peat or moss lands, clayey soils, other damp places; at elevations from sea level to 1,900 metres[
]. Often found on limestone[
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Rhododendron lapponicum is a very cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to around -40°c when fully dormant[
]. Although cold-tolerant when dormant, the flowers and young growth of Rhododendrons are very susceptible to damage by late frosts in regions where these are likely to occur after new growth has commenced in the spring[
]. The plant rarely does well in milder regions of the temperate zone, it probably requires exceptionally cool, moist conditions and a long period of snow-cover in the winter[
Succeeds in a most humus-rich lime-free soils except those of a dry arid nature or those that are heavy or clayey[
]. Prefers a peaty or well-drained sandy loam[
]. Succeeds in sun or shade, the warmer the climate the more shade a plant requires[
]. A pH between 4.5 and 5.5 is ideal[
Succeeds in a woodland though, because of its surface-rooting habit[
], it does not compete well with surface-rooting trees[
]. Plants need to be kept well weeded, they dislike other plants growing over or into their root system, in particular they grow badly with ground cover plants, herbaceous plants and heathers[
Plants form a root ball and are very tolerant of being transplanted, even when quite large, so long as the root ball is kept intact[
Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[
Some caution is advised if consuming this plant - see the notes above on toxicity.
A tea is made from the leaves and flower tips[
Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn and given artificial light. Alternatively sow the seed in a lightly shaded part of the warm greenhouse in late winter or in a cold greenhouse in mid spring. Surface-sow the seed and do not allow the compost to become dry[
]. Pot up the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a greenhouse for at least the first winter.
Layering in late July. Takes 15 - 24 months[
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, August in a frame. Easy[