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Entering the Rutherford Conservatory is like stepping into an ark for the Rhododendron species. From such far-flung locales as China, Borneo, Vietnam, New Guinea and other regions of southeastern Asia, the Conservatory features an exquisite collection of the tropical species of rhododendrons called vireyas, as well as many companion plants including orchids and tree ferns.
Visitors enjoy viewing hundreds of these tropical beauties that are interplanted to replicate the natural plant communities of their origin, all set alongside waterfalls, a splashing stream, and towering boulders. There are colorful, often fragrant flowers on display every day of the year in the Conservatory so anytime is a great time to visit! It is a real haven into which visitors can retreat during the long, cold and wet winters of the Pacific Northwest.
Several species in the collection may no longer exist in their native habitat, largely due to deforestation and habitat destruction. In an effort to study and protect these rare species, the RSBG’s Executive Director and Curator, Steve Hootman, travels to remote locations around the world to locate and document these rapidly disappearing plant populations. These expeditions have discovered species new to science and have provided researchers with genetic material for scientific study.
Opening in September 2010, the five-thousand-square-foot Rutherford Conservatory, was named in honor of the late Francis C. Rutherford, a long-time RSBG member and vireya enthusiast. The development and construction of the Rutherford Conservatory has been one of the single greatest accomplishments in the history of the Rhododendron Species Foundation, enabling the RSF to fulfill our mission of conservation, research, acquisition, evaluation, cultivation, public display, and distribution of Rhododendron species.
The adjoining Conservatory terrace provides a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the view, have a picnic and visit with friends. It is also a popular venue for weddings and events.