The rhododendron – bilberry habitat lies just above the coniferous forests. As the larches and firs gradually thin out, more and more space is taken up by the so-called ‘twisted bushes’. Twisted because instead of growing vertically, their trunks extend parallel to the ground, bending under the weight of the winter snows. There are many of them in the Gardens: junipers, rhododendrons and bilberries. Everyone knows the bilberries, and the plant is easily recognizable, especially when bearing its famous sweet berries. Less well known are the dwarf juniper, a bush that grows against large boulders, taking advantage of the heat they retain, and the rhododendron, a shrub that grows on soil rich in humus and prefers northern exposures.
The Rhododendron (Rhododendron ferrugineum) is one of the ‘twisted bushes’: it blooms in early summer, when its lovely intense pink-fuchsia flowers color the slopes of our mountains.
In bloom, the plant resembles an azalea, and in fact, both plants belong to the family of the Ericaceae.