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Observations placeholder

The terror of the hobbit pipe



Type of Spiritual Experience


Rhododendron  is a genus of over 1, 000 species of woody plants in the heath family. It includes the plants known to gardeners as azaleas. They may be either evergreen or deciduous, but usually grow to shrub size, occasionally they can become the size of trees.   Rhododendron giganteum, is supposed to have grown to over 30 metres (98 ft) tall.  In contrast, there are alpine species with small flowers and small leaves, and tropical species such as section Vireya that often grow as epiphytes.

Species of the genus Rhododendron occur naturally throughout moist areas of the Northern Hemisphere and into the Southern Hemisphere in southeastern Asia and northern Australasia. No species are native to South America and Africa.  The highest species diversity is found in the Himalayas and in the mountains of Indo-China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.  Tropical rhododendron species range from southeast Asia to northern Australia, with 55 known species in Borneo and 164 in New Guinea. Relatively fewer species occur in North America and Europe.  Because of their use as garden plants, they have spread to many countries other than their natural habitat.

Rhododendrons contain grayanotoxin and are thus poisonous eg

Grayanotoxin poisoning from flower of Rhododendron mucronulatum in humans - Choi SH, Lee SW, Hong YS, Lim SI.  PMID: 17345127

A description of the experience

Internet experience

A single species of rhododendron, the lavender ponticum, is known to create trips when its smoke is inhaled. The plant is quite poisonous however, so this seems to be a case where ingesting a sublethal dose of a poisonous plant gets you high by attacking the hell out of your nervous system.

This is the only one on the list that I’ve had experience with, though sort of by accident. When I was going to college, I was living in Asheville, NC, which is up in the mountains, where there’s a crapload of Rhododendron and one day while hiking in the woods, I found a branch that was in the perfect shape of a hobbit pipe and even hollowed out down the middle by decay or ants or something. Well, I took it home and tried smoking pipe tobacco through it and ended up for the next 30 minutes having an insane out of body experience that my soul was just barely hanging onto my body by a thin silver thread. It was terrifying and I don’t recommend it.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Smoke inhalation




1.  Meyler’s Side Effects of Drugs – Elsevier publishing

2.  A Modern Herbal – Mrs M Grieve

Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances – Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Plants and Venomous Animals pub. Wiley