Rhododendron arboreum

You can get a lot of information on the local weather patterns and precipitation by simply looking at the type of vegetation, and in some places you will know that the clouds are hugging the landscape for long periods of time as these long “beards” only grow to these lengths where the moisture is frequent and lasting for extended periods.

In some locations this could be just in a very limited locale in a north-facing depression or mountain-side, and here I found it extraordinarily beautiful contrasting the warm tones of these Rhododendron arboreum inflorescences. The contrasting colors are usually only in the greens, as these long veils thrive on the Hemlock and Himalayan Fir.

This is an annual, but short lived event, that I am so grateful I have experienced, as only days later the flowers will start to fade and then drop to the ground, leaving the beard once again in a rather dull color palette.

This particular tree truly impressed me with its height, at least 8 – perhaps 10 meters tall, its shape and signs of age and all the amazing lichen!

Its base was a high trunk with no branches, just like a mature tree, and the lower inflorescences only reachable for birds, as there was no branch low enough to grab on to climb up.

It grows just a few centimeters a year, so this one is several hundred years old, yet only about to reach middle age.

The lichen is also a good indicator of age and stability, as it grows just a few millimeters per year and thus the base on which it grows must be much older than a human. I don’t know the growth rate or species of the beard-like lichen seen here, but let’s say it grows 5mm per year and it is 1 meter long, that’s 200 years, and that again is just this one branch of this amazing tree.

Elevation: 3269 meters.

Native range is Indian subcontinent to Myanmar.

Last updated on 10 April 2023