Wild azalea

Rhododendron canescens
Family: Ericaceae

Natural History
Showy flowers of wild azalea
Photo credit: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org

Wild azalea is a deciduous, multi-branched shrub that grows up to 15 feet tall with fragrant, showy pink and white, clustered tubular flowers that appear in the spring. Wild azalea occurs in habitats with moist soil but is also drought tolerant. It attracts wildlife such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds which makes this shrub a popular landscape plant.

The wild azalea grows near edges of streams and swamps. It can be found from Florida, north to Pennsylvania and southwest to Texas.

Various mammals and birds use wild azalea for cover and shelter. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds use wild azalea as a source of nectar.

Wild azalea is a popular landscape plant because it is a beautiful, fragrant, low maintenance shrub and it attracts wildlife.


Identifying Characteristics

Habitat: Wild azalea is a sun to partial shade-tolerant species found in open fields, edges of woodlands, and along streams.
Size/Form: Wild azalea is a shrub that reaches a height of 10' to 15'. This upright, many branched shrub is about as tall as it is wide. It slowly forms clumps by sending up suckers from underground runners.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, deciduous leaves 1" to 4" in length. Leaves are dull green above with wooly hairs below. Elliptic, and pointed leaves are covered in white hairs and grow in whorls at the branch tips.
Flowers: Tubular flowers with 3" white to rose colored blooms. Fragrant flowers open in early to mid-spring.
Fruit: An oblong woody capsule 1/3" to 1/2"in length, splits when mature in late summer.



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