Magazine article Sunset

Wild Rhododendrons on Their Home Turf; North Coast Reserves, Just off U.S. 101 or State 1

Magazine article Sunset

Wild Rhododendrons on Their Home Turf; North Coast Reserves, Just off U.S. 101 or State 1

Article excerpt

North coast reserves, just off U.S. 101 or State 1

As if not to divert attention from the dramatic meeting of land and water along California's north coast, nature tends to limit its palette to subtle hues. But in three coastal rhododendron reserves, one new last year, this chromatic restraint gives way to the bold splashes of a showy extrovert.

Two native species of the genus Rhododendron thrive in the coast's moist climate and acid soil. Both are shrubs that bloom in clusters of colorful flowers. The seasonal display usually starts in April and lasts into summer.

One species is actually an azalea. Deciduous Rhododendron occidentale is the only native azalea in the West. It's at its best in the two northernmost reserves. Its sweetly fragrant, funnel-shaped flowers range in color from white to pinkish red, often tinged with yellow. These attractive blooms have made the Western azalea a popular progenitor of garden hybrids.

Kruse state reserve features Rhododendron macrophyllum, variously known as Pacific, coast, Western, and California rhododendron. This evergreen sports globular clusters of deep pink to purple flowers.

Admission to all three reserves (listed north to south and all just a short distance off U.S. 101 or State 1) is free.

Stagecoctszch Hill Azalea Preserve. A dedication ceremony last spring marked the completion of several years of work by the State Parks Foundation and the Coastal Conservancy on this 40-acre property overlooking Big Lagoon and the ocean. …

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