This is the demon Rhododendron ponticum. Much maligned for its invasive habits, when allowed to roam free it ousts native flora and is incompatible with, or at worst poisonous to, much of our fauna. It is outlawed in Scotland. The problem is that from the late 18th century onwards the passion for the exotic plants of the orient resulted in thousands of weaker more decorative rhododendrons being grafted onto the vigorous ponticum roots. The persistent ponticum invariable throws up strong suckers from below the graft and swamps the delicate graft above, eventually reverting completely to the original plant. End of delicate sophisticated rhody, ding dong ponticum. Now the price on its head has increased due to it acting as host for Phytophthora ramorum or Sudden Oak Death which is killing not only oaks but many other trees and shrubs including viburnum, camelia and larch. This deadly fungus is spreading surely around the country.
Now pretend you don’t know any of the above. Here, located on a dry and shady slope, where only hart’s tongue ferns and ivy will grow, with its crown raised to show its elegant stem and temper its propensity to natural layering, it does look rather attractive.
Mind you we have plenty that could do with a quick chainsaw.