This rhododendron is known as the ‘the thousand year old rose’ in Thailand, and for all I know they really do grow for a millennium. The Latin name is Rhododendron arboreum subsp. delavayi and the plant produces lovely red flowers during the winter (January and February). R. arboreum subsp. delavayi is not unique to Thailand but is also found in India and Myanmar. The plants grow at high altitudes, typically on the tops of mountains in Thailand, such as Doi Chiang Dao and Doi Inthanon – Thailand’s highest mountain – where I took these pictures. It is difficult to predict the best date to see the flowers in Thailand; these photos were taken at the beginning of February this year (03/02/14) and the flowers were probably slightly past their peak. Nevertheless, they remain impressive and have a certain regal presence. I understand that their status is vulnerable and most people respect their uniqueness and do not pick them; indeed it is considered bad luck to try and plant them in your garden in some cultures. The trees are however, used for incense in some places, although this is presumably a sustainable use. On Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai Province, these trees can be see on both the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail and the Ang Ka Nature Study, described in previous blogs, but only for a relatively short period (Jan/Feb) each year. The rhododendron trail on at Doi Ang Khang is another good place to see them.
I am an entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.