Azalea falconeri (Hook.f.) Kuntze
Rhododendron falconeri is an evergreen shrub or a tree with somewhat sparse branches; it can grow 10 metres or more tall. The plant has a straighter bole and a less branching habit than most Himalayan species in the genus[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a source of materials. It is grown as an ornamental in gardens.
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[
The leaves are used as a fish poison in order to catch fish. The toxicity is due to the presence of a bitter substance, glucoside ericolin[
E. Asia - Himalayan regions of eastern Nepal, Bhutan, India (Sikkim, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh).
Rocky slopes; at elevations from 2, 700 - 3,000 metres in Nepal[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Rhododendron falconeri is native to the temperate zone of, where it can be found at elevations up to metres. It is not a very cold-tolerant plant, when fully dormant it can withstand temperatures down to about -10°c. 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[
Rhododendron species generally succeed when grown in a non-compacted, humus rich lime free soil and a position with some shade, preferably light woodland shade. They strongly dislike soils of a dry arid nature, heavy soils or clays[
]. Prefers a peaty or well-drained sandy loam[
]. Succeeds in sun or shade, the warmer the climate the more shade a plant requires[
]. Requires a pH between 4.5 and 5.5[
A slow-growing tree[
Rhododendron species are mainly woodland species that grow well in the dappled shade and shelter given by the other woodland plants. They are surface-rooting species with a fibrous root system, however, and do not grow well close to trees that are also surface-rooting, nor do they do well with ground cover or other small plants growing over or into their roots[
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[
The oval or oblong leaves are 15 - 30cm long and 6 - 15cm wide, sometimes larger. They are very stout, thick, and strongly veined, the upper surface dark green, curiously wrinkled, but otherwise smooth; the lower surface covered with a dense, rust-coloured felt[
]. They are used as linings in baskets, to wrap foods and also for packaging apples[
The reddish-white wood is close and even-grained with a beautiful satiny lustre. A hard wood that does not warp, it takes a beautiful polish[
]. It is used for making small items.
The wood is used for fuel[
Seed - surface sow in a shady part of the greenhouse in late winter or early spring[
]. Another report says that the seed is best sown in the autumn as soon as it is ripe[
]. Germination is variable and can be quite slow. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the pots on in a shady frame for 18 months before planting them out into their permanent positions[
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, mid summer in a frame. Plant out in spring[
Cuttings of mature wood, late autumn in a frame[