The Rhododendron is a small tree or shrub growing
up to about 3m. It has a characteristic gnarled and dwarfed appearance.
The bark is dark grey, thick and furrowed. The branches are stout
leaves of the Rhododendron are oblong or oval and pointed at the
apices. They are shiny and dark green with clearly marked veins.
The leaves are crowded at the ends of the branches, and also crowded
below the flowers, making them look like a posy. The young leaves
of the Rhododendron are poisonous if ingested, but they can be used
externally for headaches.
The flowers are scarlet and trumpet-like in shape
and appear in bunches like a posy.
The flowering season is from April to July. The
fruits are woody, hard capsules, which split into five segments
to disperse the seeds.
The Rhododendron is endemic to Sri Lanka and is
found in the wet patanas of the montane zone where they are common.
Look out for it in the mountains of the Knuckles
or in Horton Plains. It can be easily recognised by its gnarled
appearance and the numerous bunches of red flowers.