Author(s): Richard Milne
Has a group of plants ever inspired such love in some, and hatred in others, as rhododendrons? Their propensity towards sexual infidelity makes them popular with horticultural breeders, and early plant collectors faced mortal peril to bring stunning new species back to life. They can clothe whole hillsides or gardens with colour. But there is a darker side to these plants. Numerous Chinese folk tales link them with tragedy and death. They can poison livestock and intoxicate humans, and their narcotic honey has been used as a weapon of war. Rhododendron ponticum has run riot across the British countryside, but the full story of this implacable invader contains many surprises. Richard Milne explores the many ways in which rhododendrons have influenced human societies, relating this to the extraordinary story of the plants' evolution. Tales are told of mythical figures, intrepid collectors and eccentric plant breeders. Over a thousand species exist, ranging from rugged trees on Himalayan slopes to rock-hugging alpines. However much you know about rhododendrons, this book will tell you something new.
Richard Milne is a senior lecturer in the school of Biology at the University of Edinburgh. He is a keen field botanist with an interest in creative writing.