Yesterday morning in the Arnold Arboretum was magical. A spectacular fog enveloped Boston and made its way into the living collections, coating the surfaces of plants with shimmering beads of water. On top of Bussey Hill, a Korean rhododendron (Rhododendron mucronulatum 271-74*A) was in full bloom (yes, it has been warmish of late) and every flower was covered with perfect clear droplets. Have a close look at the very top droplet on the upper petal of the open flower (magnified lower left). The canopy of trees on top of Bussey Hill has been captured by this ephemeral liquid lens and flipped upside down!
It certainly is not unusual to see various woody plants throw a few inappropriately-timed flowers in the late fall and early winter. But, if you would like to see a plant completely committed to a very early flowering event, click the accession number above for a map and head to the top of Bussey Hill. Normally, the Korean rhododendron (native to Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, and China, and introduced to North America by the Arnold Arboretum in 1882) is one of the earliest flowering rhododendrons in our collections (early April). This, however, really takes the prize.
For more water-covered plants from yesterday morning, including the beautiful fruits of Ilex verticillata ‘winter red’ (winterberry) and the waxy undersurfaces of Abies koreana ‘Silberlocke’ (Korean fir), head to the AA Plant Image Database. And next time you wake up to a fog-enshrouded morning, head directly to the Arboretum to enjoy the interplay between plant surfaces and water.
-Ned Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum