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Washington’s state flower, the coast rhododendron, begins to bloom

The coast rhododendron, which was picked as a state symbol in 1892, can be found throughout Seattle’s neighborhoods and parks.

A pink rhododendron blooms amongst a sea of green leaves.

“Rhodies” come in all sorts of colors like red, pink, and purple.

Photo by SEAtoday Staff

We may not be able to say “rhododendron” three times fast, but we are excited to see that these big colorful bushes are reaching their peak blooming period soon.

The coast rhododendron has been Washington’s state flower since 1892, when the state looked to its residents to pick which flower it would sent to a floral exhibit at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The choice was made by the state’s population of women, with the big choice boiling down to rhododendrons and clover.

As early May bloomers, these lovely plants — also called “rhodies” by those easily tongue-twisted” — are starting to stretch out of their buds. Here are a few spots to gaze upon these big pom-pom plants.

Rhododendron Glen | 2300 Arboretum Dr. E.
Especially showy in late spring, some of the rhododendrons in this section of the Washington Park Arboretum date back to the 1930s. “Companion plants” like magnolias, firs, and ferns are interspersed throughout the foliage to foster a dense, healthy variety of ericaceous plants.

Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden | 2525 S. 336th St., Federal Way
An hour’s drive down from South Seattle area, this gorgeous garden boasts over 700 species of rhododendrons — one of the largest collections in the world. The area includes trails throughout the forest, which come alive with blooms around this time of year.

Seattle Japanese Garden | 1075 Lake Washington Blvd. E.
Also part of the Arboretum, the Japanese Garden has its own rhododendron collection dispersed along trails, representing several of the flower’s color variations.

We highly recommend giving some of these gardens a gander + soaking up that beautiful Seattle sunshine — it does wonders for the serotonin levels, trust us.

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