Alpaca poop speckles my paddock, and it’s impossible not to step in it. Ah well, such is the cost of walking the talk, I suppose. My recent discovery was that alpacas like to nibble on fruit trees. That’s mostly inconvenient, as I prefer to do my own pruning, but now that my chipper is on the fritz, their chomping is ridding me of some prunings, though not the larger limb artifacts of October’s storm havoc, which brought my orchard to its knees.
Apple branches are fine for alpacas, but Rhododendrons are toxic to them, by the way. And honey made from Rhododendron flowers makes people lose mental function, as they did famously in the days of antiquity, as when the Roman army was fed “mad honey” and then slaughtered in their delirium. Still, though, the Rhodie is a ubiquitous shrub, pushed on us by big box stores, and making our gardens so generic, despite their spectacular flowers. Ho hum, just another enormous blossom, yawn.
Interestingly, both Rhododendrons (who said “Rhodo-dumdums”? was it Pooh? I can’t find the reference) and alpacas were originally native to North America, but one is poisonous and the other an incorrigible nibbler, it, so there we are.
There are some respectable Rhodies at Garden in the Woods, but my scrappy one in the front yard was put a spot where it doesn't thrive, probably due to lack of light. With the animals here now, I have a slight concern that some unplanned nibbling could potentially happen, so it’s making me a little nervous.
I actually requested the shrub’s extradition years ago, and continue to hope it would find a more appropriate place, but somehow, it worms its way out of its predicament, and still stands there, likely scheming about the greener grass on the other side of the fence, where it can do the darker work of poisoning and crazy-making, while continuing to promise (but never actually deliver) spectacular blossoms.
If we wind up with the Rho smelling like roses and me covered in dirt, just remember, it went toxic first.
Originally, this article said it was the Greeks who were slaughtered, but it was the Romans. The effect was reported by the Greek Xenophon in 401 BC, when his army consumed rhododendron honey and went mad from its effects, but they weren't slaughtered. Centuries later, the Romans were tricked into eating it by Heptakometes of Turkey in the first century BC (who perhaps had read Xenophon), and slaughtered, as were various other armies throughout history. Sorry for any confusion the original form might have caused.