Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rhododendrons in Winter

It was cold and windy today. I found myself walking quickly down the street, with my head down and hands tucked deep into the pockets of my coat trying to keep as little of my skin exposed as possible. It made me think of the Rhododendron. In the winter, it's large leaves droop down and curl backward so the soft permeable underside is protected, while the outer, waxy side is exposed to the elements.

What they are doing is called thermotropism. Thermotropic movement is the movement of a plant or plant part in response to changes in temperature. The dry winter air and winds can cause moisture loss from the stomata on the underside of the leaf, so the leaf curls to protect itself. Once you see the Rhododendrons looking like this, you know it's cold!

I look forward to the day when these leaves uncurl because it means warmer weather is here to stay!


  1. Looks like you've got the same weather as us - I enjoyed the pictures of out of the way places in New York like the botanical gardens and the elevated park

  2. Lovely Kate! I have two in my yard, one huge and thriving, the other was in desparate need of TLC when I moved in, and is coming along pretty nicely. I love the way there buds (forgive my layman's inaccuracies)are so prominent through the they're just waiting it out, sitting patiently till there time comes :-)

  3. My Rhododendrons look like that now all curled up. The first time I saw them do this I thought they were dying from the cold. LOL! They look so sad with their leaves all curled up. I see yours are large ones too.

  4. It is just their nature to curl, but I always feel a bit sad for them. Many of them get ripped out of landscapes for this very natural process because they just look bad.

  5. Interesting, I did not know the science behind the curled leaves.I notice that my evergreen euonymus curls just like the rhododendrons you have shown here. I also notice that the color gets darker on all my evergreens when it is really cold - that is when I know I really need to button up before I head outside. Stay warm! Jennifer

  6. Hi, Kate!
    What a great post. Glad to have found your blog (and thank you for visiting and commenting on mine.)

    I love, love, love Rhododendrons but the poor things just can't cope with my Alkaline soil. Looking forward to following more of your posts.


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