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Rhododendron and
Azalea News

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Summer/Fall 2010  Vol. 13  No. 2
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Ideas for Chapters

Deciduous means shedding leaves!


The winter season is almost here!  And, Bruce Palmer of the Eureka Chapter wants us to know it in a different way:  by understanding words.  He has chosen the word "deciduous" and offers it to each to learn!

The Rhododendrons in the Palmer's garden still hold their leaves...but many of the other trees and shrubs, including our deciduous azaleas, are bare.  So, why not use "deciduous" for our word of the month?

The word derives from the Latin "decidere", to fall off.  What's more interesting about the word than its origin is how and why it happens.  Deciduous has been defined as "shedding leaves at a certain season."  Typically that happens in the Fall as the days get shorter...not always.  Wiliwili, Erythrina sandwichensis, the endemic coral tree of Hawaii's dry forests and a number of other plants in arid climates lose their leaves in the early summer as the dry season approaches, so it doesn't happen uniformly in the autumn.

questions and answers...

Why do so many plants drop their leaves in the Fall?  In the mountains around us, where the winters are seriously cold, the needle-shapes and small cross-sections of conifer leaves can survive nicely...though the same leaves are not highly efficient at photosynthesis.  Broad-leaved deciduous plants with their wide, thin leaves do much better at photosynthesis when the days are warm and long...but expose all their surface area to freezing when the days get short and frigid.

What to do?  One solution for broad-leaved plants is to make as much food as possible while it's the efficient thing to do, store a lot of it, then drop the leaves when they become more of a liability than an asset.  It takes less energy to grow new leaves in Spring than to use damaged, inefficient ones to start the next warm, sunny season.

What's happening in this process?  Chlorophyll is broken down constantly and reconstructed.  Then the days get shorter, the cells slow down and eventually stop manufacturing chlorophyll.  Photosynthesis grinds to a halt and once it is no longer taking place there's no reason for the plant to continue allowing the free passage of materials to and from the leaves.

The plant forms an abscission (Latin:  abscissus, to cut off) layer between the stem and the leaf.  It is a corky layer that forms a scar which cuts off the transporting vessels and protects the live cells in the stem.  The leaf cells die and the leaf drops off.  The dead leaves on the ground form good mulch for protection from and the materials that didn't get back into the plant before the abscission layer was formed can be recycled through the roots the next Spring.  The cells in the leafless plant subsist on the large stored excess of food that was made by photosynthesis while the leaves were functioning.

repeat process yield better plants next time...

As the days get longer the plant starts over...using the stored nutrients from the previous warm season to grow new leaves...typically right above the scars where the old ones fell off.  It sounds like a lot of extra work...but it must be worth it; the deciduous habit has allowed broad-leaved trees to flourish and become the dominant plants in most of the modern world.


Do you have a Dollar Table? If not, why not!

The Whidbey Chapter has one!  And, do they have fun with it...and earn money, too!  In a recent chapter newsletter, editor had this to say:

You've been out in the garden dividing and cutting back those plants that have gotten a bit out of hand.  Now, what to do with those divisions that you just can't find another place for...but can't bear to toss on the compost heap...

Keep the Dollar Table in mind for these cast-offs!  What you're discarding may be just what another chapter member is looking for.  All the proceeds from the Dollar Table go directly to the chapter's fun activities.  And, don't forget to share any spare seedlings as well.

Now, perhaps, your chapter will install a Dollar Table.


Play a game at meetings...and the winner is...


Any number of chapters incorporate into their meetings a little time for fun.

The "game" instructions go like this...If you bring a plant or "something" to add to the game, you are in!  Tickets are handed out with the other half of the ticket going into a hat.  The numbers are call randomly.

The person with the first number called goes out to the circle of items and chooses one to stand behind.  The person with the second ticket called has the choice of "stealing" the first one's item or choosing any of the remaining items.  This goes on with each additional number called.

Now, when a plant is "stolen" the victim has 30 seconds to find a new item.  This means anyone being bumped has to hustle to another plant is they intend to steal.  When the time runs out, the last person without an item must choose something no one is behind.

When all numbers have been called the first number has the option to keep his item or "steal" since he never got the opportunity to do that.  Sometimes the game goes fast with little stealing and sometimes the game take a long time with everyone stealing!

Have fun!


A thoughtful thought!

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
and find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness, and riches.
Today, tomorrow and beyond...
And, many, many blessings to each and every one.


American Rhododendron Society
Executive Director: P.O. Box 525,  Niagara Falls, NY 14304
Ph: 416-424-1942   Fax: 905-262-1999   E-Mail:
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