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8120Garden ID of native azaleas can be difficult

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  • Mike Creel
    Jun 1, 2007
      Garden ID of native azaleas can prove difficult,
      particularly if there are many garden or manmade

      Natural hybrids, like my several flammeum-canescens
      that I grew from wild-collected seeds from two
      different hybrid swarms (one on the North Edisto River
      in Aiken County, SC near Chalk Hill, another on the
      South Edisto River immediately north of Denmark, SC)
      are recognizable and keyable, basically through
      bloom time, flower form, yellow blotch and plant
      habit and my record-keeping and tagging.

      The North Edisto tags are all FL10/83, meaning my 10th
      acquired clone or seed group of flammeum and planted
      in 1983). My collection of pocket notebooks and paper
      correspondence support my plant acquisition and
      gifting/sharing of plant materials

      Manmade and garden hybrids have no such logic as
      wild-occurring hybrids do since they are not dependent
      on concurrent bloom time, natural ranges for the
      species, climatic conditions and adjacent or touching
      habitats. For example you would never find crosses of
      prinophyllum and flammeum in the wild, since their
      ranges are never coincident, but in the garden if they
      bloom concurrently and are planted near each other,
      the cross is very possible.

      I have had several batches of seed where my Gamecock
      calendulaceum and Cottingham atlanticum (planted side
      by side) crossed, a crossing not possible in the wild.
      This season I hand-pollinated my Schwind's Yellow
      alabamense with my good red Redbank3 flammeum, and
      pods have formed. I also pollenated my deep pink
      flammeum-canescens Neon Shine (both abloom in
      mid-April) with my Arb3 Early Arborescens, since both
      have outstanding shiny foliage, and pods have formed.

      Also I have noticed that even pure species grown in
      gardens outside of their natural habitat often bloom a
      bit out of season compared to wild cousins or clones,
      not by schedule as they would in the wild.

      Time of bloom seems the most important character of
      sleuthing the lineage of native azaleas in the garden
      and in the wild, but the manmade, hand-pollinated
      hybrids, particularly ones involving multiple-species
      over several generations, can and will prove

      Some eastmanii is still blooming in the wild, though
      most in my garden has past (since none is situated on
      a cool, shaded, steep north-facing bluff as in the
      wild, but I just found a pot of a beautiful,
      very-fragrant pure white with glossy, rounded foliage.
      The flowers were much less glandular-sticky than
      viscosum (swamp azalea) which IS blooming now in my
      garden and the wild. Luckily the plant was
      double-tagged and I determined it was Weston's
      Innocence. Upon closer inspection I noted the plant
      has smoother leaves and stems than eastmanii and no
      yellow blotch or pink tinges. Without those ID tags I
      would have lost in keying out Innocence. I wonder what
      its parentage is? It must have some arborescens in

      In the wild, in natural native habitats, there is much
      logic and scheduling in the bloom and leaf emergence
      sequence of native azaleas. Most garden plantings
      cannot match nature in elevation, soil type, slope,
      direction of slope, temperature, etc.

      It is ever more important to keep good records on our
      wild collected clones and our manmade hybrids, and to
      tag them well, because record-keeping for many of our
      azaleas will prove more accurate than any key taht
      anyone can devise.

      Mike Creel, SC USDA Zone 8a
      Nature is my Greenhouse
      Join the Azalea Society of America