Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wild Azaleas

I brake for flowers... at least when I'm on a country road or a woods-road. 
  I was pleasantly surprised when I stopped at a familiar spot out on a mountain top.  The Early Azaleas were blooming profusely!  I've passed this spot many times over the years, but somehow I didn't know these wild azaleas grew at this location.  Apparently, I never visited during the few weeks in the spring when these native azaleas were flowering.

 Since several species of native azaleas thrive in Pennsylvania, and several of them are very similar in appearance, I checked with the author of a native azalea website .  He says this is a patch of Early Azaleas, or Rhododendron prinopyllum.  I "keyed them out" and came close to the same conclusion.

  There were a number of patches of these lovely, flowering bushes scattered throughout the forest understory at this quiet mountain top location.
The delicate, pink and white flowers are worth inspecting with a hand lens.  Particularly,
the glandular hairs on the buds and flower tubes.  In the photo below, notice the menacing rows of glandular hairs exuding beads of a sticky substance.
Here is a close-up of the glandular hairs on a flower tube.
 I expect those sticky, glistening beads on the hair tips are part of the plant's defensive chemicals... affording some protection against herbivores.
 In the picture above my son isn't planning on eating the flowers.... what he is doing is just a boyish reaction to the whorl of flowers exhibited by these azaleas.
The wild azaleas are valuable to native bees and bumblebees.
I don't recall that these particular flowers had much of a fragrance.  However, some wild azaleas do have memorable fragrance.
 I know, because I have "followed my nose" through the woods to find the source of a pleasant smell... and found an azalea bush.

Oh, by the way, I stopped along a busy road the other day to photograph some rare flowers... they will grace my next post.


  1. These are lovely Dana. I was going to ask about their scent. Glad that did have one.

    I look forward to the rare flower photos.

    1. Sybil,
      Once I was walking through a scrubby woods and smelled a lovely smell. When I hunted around for its source, I found a Crabapple tree in full bloom. Unforgettable! Well, for at least 25 years. Last year something similar happened, only that time it was an azalea bush I smelled. That azalea bush hasn't bloomed yet this year... I hope to see what species it is soon.
      The upcoming "rare flower" post will be about a flower that is rare here in Pa... you might have endless fields of them up there... interesting flowers none-the-less.