A SPRING festival of rhododendrons is taking place across Argyll this month – celebrating what is sometimes referred to as Scotland's second national flower.

Native to the Himalayan region, the vibrant flower thrives in Scotland and is a familiar feature in gardens across the country.

However, some want to see the plant destroyed completely.

Scottish Botanist George Forrest brought hundreds of rhododendrons to Scotland from China at the start of the 20th century. The flowers he brought still grow in the collection at the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh.

Dr Alan Elliott, of the Global Conservation Consortium for Rhododendron, said: “They have become a ubiquitous part of Scotland's garden landscape. You can’t escape them. They’re everywhere.

The National:

“They have a complicated relationship with Scotland. So the positive is they are part of the garden landscape and the negative is the invasive plant that causes trouble with our landscape.”

Only one type of the flower, Rhododendron Ponticum, causes issues for other plants and gives the flower its reputation as an invasive species.

According to Forestry and Land Scotland, the intrusive version causes damage to other plants by shading them out, and when not properly maintained can dominate a habitat.

There are different hybrids of the problematic type of the flower with some sorts producing and spreading seeds and others spreading through their roots.

Elliot said: “It isn’t a garden escapee, as it sometimes betrayed. It didn’t jump the garden fence and went mad. Shooting estates planted them as game cover for pheasants.

“So, what we have is the product of 100 years of being left to their own devices and very much a man-made problem from the Victorian period.”

The majority of the flower's varieties are not harmful to other plants and are a beloved part of Scottish horticulture. Their bright and ebullient petals represent the beginning of spring.

Elliot said: “We are an incredibly rhododendron-rich place in Scotland because they grow so well here – Scotland's climate is relatively suited for them but climate change is making that a bit more difficult now”.

There are more than a thousand varieties of Rhododendrons. 

The four royal botanical gardens in Scotland have one of the world’s greatest collections with around 800 varieties and subspecies on display.