R. atlanticum

Atlantic Azalea; aka,
Coastal Dwarf Azalea


"Do you realize, what you're going through
Are you longing for home
You are crossing a bridge of azaleas
To a land of no pain."

-Steve Blaze,
2004

   

Rhododendron atlanticum is deciduous apecies azalea native to the east coast of North America, as far south as Georgia, & endangered in its northern range in Pennsylvania & New Jersey.

It is fairly common on coastal planes of Virginia & the Carolinas. Sometimes called the Coastal Dwarf Azalea, its not necessarily all that small, having a ten year height of three to four feet, & potentially larger with time. It has an upright habit & can be very twiggy.

Although first collected in 1743 when herbarium specimens were sent to the British Museum, it was never properly classified until 1916. As a gardened species-azalea it has been more popular in England & the Continent than in its homeland.

It is more forgiving of dampness than most azaleas, wild specimens liking bogs & riverbanks. In moist well draining soil it grows more rapidly & can become uniquely stoliniferous, colonizing an area by sending up new plants along its root system. In clayey soil or boggy conditions it is less likely to spread. The young plants that spring up around it are easily removed to propagate separately.

In May it begins flowering immediately before it is fully leafed, with flowers lasting until new spring leaves are out. The long-stamined blooms start out as long thin pink-bottomed white buds which open with white funnels, often but not invariably tinged on the lower outside of the inch & a half tube behind the funnel with pink or apricot (rosy pink for the present specimen).

These flowers occur in clusters of four to ten more like racemes than trusses. Its perfume is striking. It's a good choice for alongside paths because it is both compact & redolent. The species has been used in azalea breeding programs to help insure a good scented quality. The species has been useful in breeding programs to obtain hardy sweet-smelling deciduous azaleas such as 'Golden Lights' & 'Fragrant Star.'

   



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