Rhododendron Species Foundation Programs
The RSBG, utilizing our collection of plants native to numerous habitats from around the world, provides education and exposure to the intricacies of the natural world through interpretive signage, guided tours, our website and numerous publications.
The RSBG serves as the primary germplasm repository for the genus Rhododendron, one of the largest genera of plants known to science. The vast majority of our accessioned collections represent documented material obtained from wild populations occurring in some of the most densely populated regions on the planet including the rapidly disappearing wildlands and forests of southeastern Asia where the majority of Rhododendron species occur. These wild populations are at extreme and immediate risk from extirpation and even extinction due to human activities such as land clearing, burning and fuel-wood consumption.
The RSBG provides documented material to universities and scientists around the world. This material is used in phylogenetic and phylogeographic studies, etc. And, in a partnership with the University of Washington, we are sequencing the entire genome of the genus Rhododendron.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
The RSBG recently (2010) opened the 5000 sq. ft. Rutherford Conservatory, a heated greenhouse open to the public that displays a collection of endangered tropical rhododendrons known as vireyas. These rhododendrons are native to the rapidly disappearing forests of tropical southeastern Asia, specifically, the islands of Borneo, Indonesia and New Guinea. In addition, other rare plants such as wild orchid species and tree ferns are also displayed, all growing together as one would see them in their native habitats. This new exhibit serves to further our mission of education about the biology of plants as well as raising the awareness of the general public concerning the environmental degradation that is taking place in these far distant lands.
The greatest need at the RSBG is additional professional staffing. Consider all that we accomplish with just six full-time employees: maintain a 22-acre public garden, outreach and science programs, full-time nursery and plant shipping, gift shop, 22 buildings to maintain including four heated greenhouses, etc. But also consider that virtually every one of these six individuals performs the functions of two or even three full-time positions (for example, the Executive Director also functions as the Curator and the Gardener). So much more could be accomplished in education and outreach as well as renovation of the garden if we could hire even one additional full-time employee.