I remember these delicate blooms visible from hiking paths near the Oregon Coast to the west, and Mount Hood to the east, the only pink and lacey contrast to an otherwise green and husky forest. Even back then I noticed the difference; the complexity the pink delicacy brings to the deep, dense ecology. I just happened to be blessed by two Pacific Rhodies in my shaded front yard. I relish each bloom and am ever stunned by their simple beauty.
In this world of imitations and knock-offs, the Pacific Rhododendron is an original. It is indigenous to my native Northwest (and several other parts of the world), although its identification is attributed to Archibald Menzies in 1792 near Port Discovery, Washington (to the north of here). Menzies, who was looking for plants to include in King George's garden, sent seed back to England in 1850. Native tribes used them for decoration and ceremony well before Menzies arrived.
Early growers of the rhododendron relied heavily on Menzies’ findings and knowledge of the plant. So popular became rhododendrons that Alsora Fry nominated them to be Washington State's flower. A statewide election was held, however, only women were allowed to vote.
Ironically, this was during a time when women were not allowed to vote for state or national elections. Fifty-one percent of the total female voting population had voted for the Pacific Coast Rhododendron. This election revealed that women knew how to campaign for issues just as well as men did. Many of the women saw the opportunity they were given and used it to fight for their right to vote, which was granted in 1883, after a close race and loss in 1854.