This is Not a Rhododendron

April 2, 2012

This is Not a Rhododendron

April 2, 2012
Posted in: Mastheads, Nature | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Yesterday, my pet sitter back in the U.S.  pointed out that the flowers in the last post were not peonies, but crocus. Like I said, I'm not a gardener, but she's lucky I didn't call them Rhododendrons. For years now, my brother TravelMarx, who has a botany passion, has tried to educate me on plants and flowers. But to no avail, I can only remember one name. And when he quizzes me, that one name is my go-to answer: Rhododendron.

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"What type of Rhododendron is this," I asked TravelMarx in an email sent with these photos.

TravelMarx to me is like a human Google. When I need to know something, I just ask him. The only difference is, TravelMarx doesn't usually just give me the answer, he makes me work for it. And while Google is a TravelMarx-approved educational tool, Wikipedia is not. While Wikipedia is a great place to start, its information is generally is too high level to really understand the nuances of any given subject. So TravelMarx always encourages me to inquire deeper.

As a child, I was a terrible school student, with barely passing grades. TravelMarx tutored me. Over the years he made learning into a game and tapped into my competitive spirit to inspire me to do better. Soon, I was getting A's in just about every subject, and in high school, was one of those geeky kids in the honors classes who actually gave a shit about her grades. His inspiration is what motivated me into college and all the way through graduate school. I've always been proud of my education and I have him to thank for it. But I am currently not doing a thing with either degree. In fact, I'm not even employed.

And I suppose I have him to thank for winding up an unemployed bum in Switzerland.  Ya, so thanks TravelMarx!

So when I asked him what type of flower this was, I had to preface it with something that would make him feel better about just giving me the answer. Like, "I'm planning to photograph all those tulips in Morges and write about what I learn" or something to the tune to show that I'm not looking for the easy way out. Either that, or I have to come off so entirely stupid, he just rolls his eyes and gives me the answer. You gotta give me props for at least being clever enough to work my own mentor, right?

TravelMarx told me it looks like a Magnolia tree but he didn't know the species because he'd need to see the blossoms before they bloomed. Whatever TravelMarx. I let this one slide since you're claiming not to have all the information.

So here's your silly Magnolia trivia for the day.

  1. Magnolias are not Rhododendrons and are named after French botanist, Pierre Magnol.
  2. The state flower and tree of Mississippi, Magnolia's meaning is dignity, nobility and splendid beauty.
  3. Magnolias are easy to grow and pest free.
  4. Unlike most other trees and shrubs, the roots of a Magnolia tree are largely unbranched and rope-like. Because of this, magnolias tend to suffer more than many other trees if they are moved after they reach a large size.
  5. Magnolias are like totally ancient. They were around before bees, so they relied on beetles to pollinate. Please don't kill those big gorgeous beetles. They make nice Magnolias, which aren't Rhododendrons.
  6. No seriously, Magnolias are totally ancient. Like, 20 million years ago ancient. That's totally older than my old man. In fact, the first plant fossils found were woody magnolia-like plants dating back 93 million years!
  7. Magnolias flowers do not produce nectar but they do produce large quantities of pollen. The pollen is high in protein and the beetles use it for food. So don't feed the beetles. They don't need the extra calories.
  8. There's actually a Magnolia Society, dedicated to the appreciation and study of Magnolias. I'm so betting TravelMarx didn't know about that!
  9. My odds are improving when TravelMarx quizzes me on the next plant or flower. If it's not a Rhododendron, have a 1 in 269,999 chance of it being a Magnolia. Because scientists believe that there are over 270,000 species of flowers living in the 21st Century.
  10. "Steel Rhododendrons" was thisclose for being the name of the play and film "Steel Magnolias."  But there was a sale on Magnolia trees the day they started filming and hence used as the prop that opens the play and film about which the character argue.
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9 comments on “This is Not a Rhododendron”

  1. Ha-roo roo roo, thanks fur the Magnolia knowledge this morning. We'll be sure our human puts it to good use.

    jack & moo

  2. That's some pretty cool information about about Magnolias! At least you learned something about them. lol And if you got some info Travelmarx didn't have, then even better!

  3. The only flowers I recognize are silk ones or pressed ones - all other flowers wither as soon as they enter my house. (Yep, total toxic thumb. My smart-ass mother, certain that I needed some plant life in my office, sent me a cactus. My mother, BTW is the total Master Gardener...) All that aside, I fail to see the problem in being an over-educated bum. I did that for several years, and was quite happy (except for that damn health insurance thing). I actually got the Ph.D. back when I planned on running a ski resort, and mostly wanted the Ph.D. to hang on the wall to know that I could have done something with my life if I had really wanted to. 🙂

    However, I think the motto for the day is "Magnolias are not Rhododendrons." (And I can only recognize a Rhododendron because we had several of them in Saudi Arabia, and they grew like weeds - and used to scratch the hell out the side of our car...)

    -Dr. Liz, who, sadly, is not an unemployed, over-educated bum. 😉

  4. If it was our mom, she'd only be able to say "this is a flower" because she is completely clueless. At least she can say flower and not just "this is a plant."

    Kat

  5. Well, mama is in the same class as Kat when it comes to horticulture. Our only interest is whether they're edible - without making us sick afterwards. The info - especially the paleobotany info - was most interesting, however.

    Jed & Abby

  6. HaHa, we got a big kick out of #10. Somehow Steel Rhododendrons just doesn't have the right ring to it:)

    Beautiful tribute to your brother - we can always read that close bond between you two between the lines.

    And you may not think you are working, but we sure hve learned a lot from you on so many levels.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning and Mom

  7. Pee Ess, we have not tried a thundershirt with Phantom because of the terrible reaction from him when he had to wear his tshirts post surgery. And he would be wearing one so much of the time because his fear is pre-storm, and by several days:(

  8. Well, as Cage said "I have nothing to say and I'm saying it"*:

    1. Rhododendron is not a bad guess for a plant ...if you live in the Northwest.
    2. I didn't know there was a Magnolia Society.
    3. "Steel Rhododendrons" sound like a great working title for an autobiography!
    4. You are welcome. Inspiration goes both ways. I have learned and will continue to learn from you too. (e.g. your sage words about giving advice is my mantra for 2012)

    Love ya....

    * you may have been sleeping when I was in that room at the Tate with Gerhard Richter works 🙂 dreaming about rhododendrons probably.

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