Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stamp of the Day: Swedish azalea (Lapsk alpros)

Right now, four members of our family (three generations, the youngest about 10) are hiking in the Swedish mountains, fjällen, from one hut to another each day over vast heaths. Hopefully rain and mosquitos are staying away. I am eager to hear their stories when they come back, filled with memories of giant skies and vistas of mountains, reindeers, camping food, and maybe eagles and owls too. 

But I don't think they will see this plant, the 'lapsk alpros' (loosely translated as Lapland Alp Rose, in USA it is called Lapland Rose Bay), which is the only Swedish member of Rhododendron, the azalea genus.  In Sweden, this plant only gets about 5 cm (2 inches) tall, and grows high up in the northern parts of the mountains.  I still remember the first time I saw this plant, with its dark pink flowers.

It is a typical example of when the wild plant is smaller (and in some ways more exquisite and detailed) than the gory, large horticultural species and varieties we cultivate in our gardens. This species is also interesting because it occurs all around in the northern Arctic, from Sweden through Russia, into Japan, Alaska, and Canada and USA.  So, stamp of the day, Rhododendron lapponicum, from Sweden, issued 1989. Enjoy!

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