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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have some really interesting Rhododendron branches and, after a search on here, i've found conflicting advice as to whether the branches and leaves are toxic or not? I read a thread where Ed claimed to have used Rhododendron in the past with no ill effects (here : http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/general-discussion/74997-temperate-wood.html), but the few threads i've found seem to be filled with uncertainty as to its suitability?

Thoughts?

Cheers

Anthony
 

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I'm a member of the Mason-Dixon Chapter of the ARS--have been for a while--and do not understand why you would want to have such a "family" of plants such as Rhodies, azaleas, etc. in a viv...even the leaves. The leaves are considered a problem for some animals (not for the damn deer, let me tell you....)....this is akin to putting black walnut in a viv...and there are other things as well. The leaves of Rhodies are large, like magnolias, but MAY contain something that the frogs cannot tolerate...I cannot, with certainty, say "NO", but there are too many alternatives to use...
 

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It is fine to use.. I've used it for many years with both aquatic and non-aquatic species. It is surprisingly long-lasting in the wet enviroment. If you have access to really old bushes the twisted large branches found in the center of the shrub are particularly great to use.

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This is just the sort of conflicting advice I was on about. If you've had no ill effects from its use Ed, then i'll go ahead and use it.

Cheers

Anthony
 

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This is just the sort of conflicting advice I was on about. If you've had no ill effects from its use Ed, then i'll go ahead and use it.
Typically when you see advice to use or not use something in the enclosure it is because someone looks on line to see if the plant is toxic or not which is the list of plants known to have caused issues with humans, or pets like dogs and cats... However many of the plants we use in the enclosures to make them aesthetically appealing are toxic.. for example if you look through threads you'll often see pictures of people using crotons, or dieffenbachia (which is a tadpole deposition site for some dendrobatids in the wild*), pothos, various philodendrons and no one gives them a second thought (unless it is based on aesthetics or whether or not it will push up the lid) before using them. In general, I would suggest avoiding woods that are aromatic when cut like cedars but that still leaves open a huge field of potential woods that can be used....

Some comments,

Ed
*has to be much larger than can be grown in a tank to be used
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thankyou for the detailed response Ed. I will now go on the hunt for some older rhododendron trunks :)

Regards

Anthony
 

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It is fine to use.. I've used it for many years with both aquatic and non-aquatic species. It is surprisingly long-lasting in the wet enviroment. If you have access to really old bushes the twisted large branches found in the center of the shrub are particularly great to use.

Ed
with all due respect...and I have enormous respect for your scientific knowledge, my point was why to use a plant that I couldn't say for sure would be safe because the leaves are toxic to some animals. I cannot say with certainty that the actual woody stem is toxic...but this family of plants typically likes well-draining, acid, conditions and will not thrive...especially to the point of blooming...rhodies especially suffer diseases from sitting in moist soil...so that was the question I was asking: why use THAT particular family of plants when there are so many other, better, choices...?? The "old" wood can be interesting with twists, etc.--but will present the issues of rotting, etc. So hopefully the more information about its use will result in a better, long-term outcome for a vivarium that will be a very moist environment..
 

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with all due respect...and I have enormous respect for your scientific knowledge, my point was why to use a plant that I couldn't say for sure would be safe because the leaves are toxic to some animals. I cannot say with certainty that the actual woody stem is toxic...but this family of plants typically likes well-draining, acid, conditions and will not thrive...especially to the point of blooming...rhodies especially suffer diseases from sitting in moist soil...so that was the question I was asking: why use THAT particular family of plants when there are so many other, better, choices...?? The "old" wood can be interesting with twists, etc.--but will present the issues of rotting, etc. So hopefully the more information about its use will result in a better, long-term outcome for a vivarium that will be a very moist environment..
Judy,

The original poster was referring to using wood that was cut as part of the cage decorations not to grow it in the tank.

With respect to the toxicity, if we remove all toxic plants from the enclosures then we are removing a huge number of commonly used plants, for example as a short list
pothos, philodendrons, spathophyums, dieffenbachia, assorted calatheas....

With respect to using the old wood and decay, we have to keep in mind that all of the types of wood popular to use in the tanks is going to rot, including cork, cypress, oak, etc. They all will break down....

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If we remove all toxic plants from the enclosures then we are removing a huge number of commonly used plants, for example as a short list
pothos, philodendrons, spathophyums, dieffenbachia, assorted calatheas....
A very good point there!

Thankyou both for the constructive information posted on this thread. Where would I be without DB!

Regards

Anthony
 

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Thanks for the response Ed I just popped in here to check on this because I have a rather gnarly epic looking rhododendron trunk root system from a failed garden planting...died several years in sadly...so really looking forward to giving it a new life in something beautiful! Do you dry yours in the oven Ed?
 

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why use THAT particular family of plants when there are so many other, better, choices...??
I can think of another ericaceous shrub whose wood is viv-popular: manzanita.

Plants typically devote their chemical defenses to their body parts most vulnerable to herbivory - their leaves. At least their succulent parts. Not so much their wood, for the most part. Sure there are some glaring exceptions (e.g., cedar, redwood, bald cypress), but that's what they are. Exceptions. Most are conifers - straight and boring, from a viv perspective.

I have advocated the exploration of 100% tung oil as a means of reducing decay rates of viv wood. I have some on hand that I really should get to playing with. I also have some nice gnarled juniper branches on hand, in my stockpile of crafting materials. The juniper holds up well in my vivs, with no treatment (it's old, dead stuff - mostly fire-killed, long since bark-free, and not even that aromatic when cut any more. For that matter, manzanita holds up pretty well too. But I've seen, on creekside hikes around here, some nice-looking twisty grapevines and maple branches, that I know would otherwise melt in 2-3 years if I put them in a viv. Those, I think, would be good tung oil candidates; could they go a decade, with such treatment? I would only use 100% tung oil though. Not any "tung oil finishes" that have solvents etc compounded into them. 100% tung oil is food-safe and semi-commonly used in butcher blocks & countertops.

I have a rather gnarly epic looking rhododendron trunk root system from a failed garden planting...died several years in sadly...so really looking forward to giving it a new life in something beautiful! Do you dry yours in the oven Ed?
I will let Ed speak for himself, but my practice (in a DRY climate) is simply to make my cuts and then stick the object "out of sight, out of mind" somewhere out of the weather for about 6-12 months, then use it. I always cut long-dead stuff so it tends to be absolutely cured and dry. Rhodies don't do well in dry climates so I reckon you've got some humidity. Still, I bet the dead wood is pretty dry, if the shrub is still upright. I think this rhodie wood of yours could be a good candidate for the tung oil treatment. Maybe don't do your choice pieces first - do some straighter, less-interesting pieces just to see how the materials interact and perform.

Random thoughts - sorry to distract, if I have.
 
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