How will climate change impact Rhododendron growth, reproduction, and survival under stress?
Rhododendron is one of the most popular woody ornamentals used as landscape plants around the world. While Rhododendron are well-adapted to cold climates, owing to changes in climate, heat stress is becoming a major factor limiting Rhododendron production. The way plants allocate resources, i.e. the economics of carbon and water use, determines their ability to survive stressful events like frost or heatwaves, as well as the timing, quality, and longevity of growth and reproduction. Plants that spend more resources to build thick, sturdy leaves are better at surviving stress, but they also tend to grow more slowly and are prone to being overtaken by other plants. Thus, leaves face a trade-off between investing in growth versus survival, but little is known about the stress tolerance of flowers, or whether the patterns of floral resource allocation and reproduction match these patterns seen in leaves. We are investigating the floral traits along with frost and heat tolerance of Rhododendron species with sturdy evergreen leaves and those with softer deciduous leaves. This long-term project will investigate plants growing in the greenhouse and outside in the collections at the Holden Arboretum and in the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Washington. We will determine species leaf and floral resource allocation, their temperature tolerance, as well as the timing of leaf and flower growth and how this relates to seed production.
This project is a collaboration with Weijia Xie (Yunnan Flower Research Institute, Kunming China), Dr. Andrea Case (Kent State University) and Dr. Adam Roddy (Florida International University).
climate change, Rhododendron,collections, physiology