Connor is responsible for both today’s write-up and photograph. Thanks, Connor!
Upon entering the David C. Lam Asian Garden, one of the first sights to reach your eye is a collection of soft yellow flowers aloft dark green foliage. Closer inspection reveals the graceful swoop of each stamen contrasting nicely with the inward curl of the leaves. Rhododendron lutescens, a member of the Ericaceae, is native to the Sichuan province of western China. Taxonomically, it is part of the subgenera Rhododendron, section Rhododendron. The phylogeny of the genus is confusing to say the least, but it is explained well by the Fraser South Rhododendron Society.
Of interest to mycologists, a new genus and species has been described in Nematococcomyces rhododendri, a new species in a new genus of the Rhytismatales from China (PDF). This fungus was found living on the twigs of Rhododendron lutescens. Nematococcomyces rhododendri is a member of the Rhytismataceae of the Rhytismatales. Thought to be relatively harmless to their plant hosts, this order of the subphylum Pezizomycotina has not been extensively studied.
About five years ago, I was working at a local nursery in the Fraser Valley when Phytophthora ramorum was spreading up the west coast of North America. This fungus is responsible for Sudden Oak Death and ramorum blight, causing widespread damage throughout California and parts of Oregon and having an impact on the nursery sales of a long list of host plants including Rhododendron species. Many plants were both quarantined and destroyed that year with the hope of curbing the spread of Phytophthora ramorum. Interestingly, the native range of this fungus is not known because of its very recent discovery (Global Invasive Species Database cites this as 2000) and rapid spread throughout the world by way of nursery stock.