Listener Gets Fired Up Over Rhododendrons

Guest host Jacki Lyden and Editor Ammad Omar take a look at listener feedback and updates on stories covered on the program. One listener said he was angered by a conversation on rhododendrons, so they go to two of the nation's top experts for answers. Also, African leaders turn up the pressure on military officers who have staged a coup in Mali.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

And now it's time for BackTalk. That's where we lift the curtains on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere. Editor Ammad Omar is here with us now. Thanks for coming in, Ammad.

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: Thank you, Jacki. Let's start off with a quick news update first. We talked earlier this week about the military coup in the African nation of Mali. Well, just yesterday leaders from five African countries flew there to push for a return to democratic rule, but before they could land, supporters of the junta took over the tarmac, forcing the planes to take what the AP calls a mid-air U-turn.

Now, the economic community of western African states says its member nations will close borders with Mali, freeze Mali's accounts, and end trade unless that coup is reversed.

LYDEN: I'm really glad we talked with Ofeibea Quist-Arcton of NPR for that story, Ammad.

What else do you have?

OMAR: Well, we have listener comments about family trees and real trees, but in our parenting conversation on Tuesday, we talked about how things like open adoption, gay marriage and blended families are making family trees more complicated.

D. Pagese(ph) of Eugene, Oregon told us about her family's story. She's celebrating her 16th anniversary with her partner. Shortly after they started dating, her partner's son and girlfriend had a baby. That was 15 years ago and she and her partner have been raising the child together ever since. And D. tells us, quote, "This isn't exactly how we intended to spend menopause, but there you go," unquote.

LYDEN: That's quite a family tree. You said you also had something about real trees. I'm thinking: Only NPR.

OMAR: Trees, bushes, plants. Yes. You spoke with Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post about the Japanese influence on gardening and horticulture in the United States.

Well, that conversation got an angry response from P. Fletcher(ph) , a.k.a. P-Fletch. Here's what he wrote on our website: I had to turn off the radio during your discussion with Adrian Higgins. When he stated that rhododendrons and azaleas are from Japan, he is only partially correct. Native evergreen rhododendrons are found in most northern hemisphere countries. In the United States, they're native to the Appalachian and Cascade Mountain ranges. As a matter of fact, two different varieties are the state flowers of West - by God - Virginia and Washington State.

LYDEN: I do want to say that Adrian Higgins was only talking about the foreign varieties of the azalea. He wrote about the plants much more extensively in the Washington Post piece. We couldn't parse it all out here, but you did some - dare I say - digging.

OMAR: Yes, I did. And P-Fletch was also partially correct. Professor Erik Nilsen of Virginia Tech has been called the authority on rhododendrons in the U.S. He tells us most of the East Coast rhododendrons are native to the Appalachian Mountains, but there are native species found in Florida and all the way up to Canada as well. That's on top of those west coast varieties that can be found from California up to Canada in the Cascade Mountains.

And as for the azaleas, the American Rhododendron Society referred us to Mr. Don Hyatt. They said he's the best man to speak about this.

DON HYATT: In the United States we have 17 species of native azaleas. They come in a variety of shades from white through pinks and yellows and orange and red, and they really are spectacular. Native azaleas - that's my love.

OMAR: So there you have it.

LYDEN: I'm really glad you turned over the earth for us like this.

OMAR: That's what we do.

LYDEN: Remember, with TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. You can turn it over. Tell us more. Call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Visit us online at NPR.org/TellMeMore and please remember to leave us your name. Of course you can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TellMeMore/NPR.

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