May to July
Archibald Menzies discovered the Coast Rhododendron in 1792 when he and George Vancouver landed near present day Port Discovery.
Approximately 90% of the world’s rhododendrons are found in southeastern Asia.
Women in Washington State organized a statewide election in 1892 to select the state flower. Eager to display a flower that would represent their state at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, more than 15,000 women cast a ballot in the election, choosing between the clover and the Coast Rhododendron. The Coast Rhododendron emerged the winner.
In 1959, the state legislature officially sanctioned the flowering evergreen shrub as the Washington state flower. The Coast Rhododendron remains prized in the Evergreen State. It enjoys protection from being picked in the wild where it grows naturally along forest edges and in clearings created by tree falls and fires.
Washington’s state flower is typically 6-8 feet tall at maturity, however it can reach heights of 20-30 feet. The flower’s dark green leaves are oblong-shaped and extend between 3 to 6 inches long and 1-3 inches wide. In springtime, the flower issues forth a colorful array of large, tubular blossoms. The flowers range in color from pale pink to darker pink, and occasionally, white.
While it may be Washington’s official state flower, the Coast Rhododendron’s range extends beyond the state’s borders. It reaches north into British Columbia and as far south as Monterey, California. Within the state, they are commonly found in coastal regions.
The Washington state flower is also found in isolated regions of the Cascade Mountain Ranges, where it can survive in elevations up to 4,000 feet. However, if residents of Spokane and other eastern Washington cities wish to see the state flower in person, they must travel to do so; the Coast Rhododendron is not found east of the Cascade Mountains.
Despite its natural beauty, rhododendron leaves and flowers contain toxic substances. While humans or wildlife should ingest no part of the plant, grazing sheep can also become ill or even die as a result of eating Rhododendron clippings.
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