It’s bloom time for rare rhododendron, but some are hidden

FITZWILLIAM, N.H. (AP) — The rhododendrons that bloom once a year at a New Hampshire state park are coming out, but vegetative growth may be hiding some of them.

A New Hampshire State Parks report Thursday said most bushes of Rhododendron maximum, also known as great laurel or rosebay, have opened their buds in a 16-acre grove in Fitzwilliam that’s part of Rhododendron State Park.

The plants are at least several centuries old and are rare in New England. This is the largest known group of them in the region. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1982.

Tom Fisher, an interpretive ranger at Monadnock State Park, posted on a department blog that even though some of the new growth has detracted from the floral display, there are still blooms to be seen.

“One group of visitors came to me after their tour of the park and told me to encourage everyone to ‘walk through the park twice,’ claiming that it was only on the second viewing that they realized how many rhododendrons were really out there,” Fisher wrote.

Rhododendron maximum are commonly found in the southern and central Appalachians along rocky wooded slopes.

In the New Hampshire park, their growing conditions, undisturbed through the years, are the key to their longevity: a swampy, evergreen forest with an acidic soil and enough shade to protect them.

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