Florida Azalea
Rhododendron austrinum - (Small) Rehder
Ericaceae (Heath) Family

Plant is a shrub. Preferred habitat is rich woods, stream banks and savannas. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.

Leaves are alternate on the stem; whole part; short stalked; widest at the middle to lance-like; often slightly toothed; tapers to the tip with sides less than equal. Base of leaf forms an angle to the left and is pinched.

Flowers are in a terminal cluster; bisexual; divided into two parts each being the image of the other. Calyx is five-lobed; corolla is five-parted and nearly funnel- shaped; pink or yellow marked with pink; often with a white or yellow spot in the throat. Five to ten stamens that extend beyond the corolla. Flowers appear before the leaf. Flowers occur in the early spring.

Fruit is a capsule.

This azalea is not designated as rare, but it is rarely seen by the public because of its preferred habitat. The azalea seen most at roadside is in various shades of pink.

The following descriptive narrative by Dr. Alvin Diamond, Troy State University:

Florida Azalea is a native deciduous shrub in the Azalea family (Ericaceae). It is native to the southern third of Alabama. Florida Azalea occurs in moist pine flatwoods, along streams and creeks, in moist Longleaf pine forests, and around bogs. It is a large shrub reaching 15 feet in height. The bark is smooth and brownish-gray. Young twigs are glandular pubescent. Leaves are alternate, petiolate, ovate to obovate in outline, with ciliate margins. The leaves are pubescent and have multicellular glandular hairs. Leaves turn yellow to brown before falling in the autumn. Flowers are produced in terminal inflorescences of 9-25 flowers on short pedicels. Flowers open before or with the unfolding of the new leaves. The flowers are weakly bilaterally symmetrical, funnelform, with 5 spreading lobes; glandular pubescent, orange to yellow in color, and fragrant. The stamens and stigma are long excerted. The fruit is a capsule. Florida Azalea is listed as a S2/S3 species in Alabama (S2 - Typically 6 to 20 occurrences, few remaining individuals, acres, or miles of stream, or factors demonstrably making it very vulnerable in the state. S3 - Typically 21 to 100 occurrences, limited acreage, or miles of stream in the state.), and globally as a G3 species (Imperiled globally because of rarity (6 - 20 occurrences, or few remaining acres, or miles of stream) or very vulnerable to extinction throughout its range because of other factors). Florida Azalea is a popular ornamental species and is available from many nurseries. It prefers a location receiving some sun with a moist, organic rich soil. Plants can also be grown from seed or by separating clones. Several selections have been developed by the nursery trade along with numerous hybrids with other species.

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