Rhododendrons: Translucent Nature


This is a rhododendron (or “laurel”) for certain, but given its location in a sanctuary where native plants were rescued or relocated from other places, I’m not certain this is a common local species. The flowers were small, the clusters tight and conspicuously globular.

And with the rain that day, each funnel-horn of five petals looked as if it were made of the thinnest translucent glass, almost as if the Blashkas had created this one in their glass studio a hundred and twenty years ago. (Blashka the elder had started his career making glass eyes, if I remember correctly, and went from that utilitarian form of creativity to the most remarkable nature-reproductions you can imagine!)

So here is nature imitating art.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’d never heard of the Blashkas before, but their glasswork is absolutely breathtaking. It’s so frustrating that, in spite of going through several pages of Google image searches, I haven’t yet found any really hi-res images. At the resolutions available, you just can’t tell the difference between art and nature! Thanks for the link.

  2. Lovely photo, Fred. Those rhododendrons are just glowing! And, oh my, those glass flowers are stunning. It’s obvious that the Blashkas had a deep love for their subjects.