Native Rhododendrons, Part III–Rhododendron alabamense and Rhododendron atlanticum

Alabama Azalea

We are officially in the mid-season of the native’s bloom cycle, and the color of the day is white. Rhododendron alabamense is the showiest of these, with that prominent yellow blotch on one petal. Though said to be a small plant, I have one at 6.5′, and another at 7′.

Clouds of White and Yellow

This species was first described by the famous botanist Dr. Charles Mohr from the University of Alabama. Furthermore, he first found it in my home county of Cullman, and naturally, he mistakenly placed it as a variant of a different species. It was not until 1921 that it was recognized as a distinct species by the scientific community.

Not every plant has as dark a yellow dot. This one is faint enough that it is not visible on a photo.

A more sedate species is Rhododendron atlanticum, a native of the east coast, from Georgia to Pennsylvania. Also known as Dwarf Azalea, this is one that really is small, usually no more than 2 or 3′. It makes up for it by spreading underground, and forming colonies. It also has small flowers.

For people in different hardiness zones, these plants bloom at the same time as Trillium grandiflorum. Here’s one blooming now in my rock garden.

Alas, it is surrounded by five native Rhodys.

Author: southernfusionfood

Writer, Woodworker, and Happy Eater

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