These azaleas differ from others in flower shape sufficiently so they once merited their own genus,
which was, naturally enough, Rhodora.
They favor stream banks and swamps. A botanical icon of New England, Rhodora has been embraced by poet
Ralph Waldo Emerson, and composer Mary Lynn Lightfoot. It became the name of the New England Botanical Club’s
journal, in publication continuously ever since 1899.
Plants: Plants are scrawny, deciduous shrubs 3-4′ (91-121 cm) in size,
spreading via stolons, horizontal above-ground roots.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, elliptic to oblong, gray-green, hairy beneath,
⅜-3″ (1-8.3 cm) × ⅛-1″ (4-30 mm). In the fall, the rosy-purple rhodora’s leaves turn bluish-purple,
while the rarer white-flowered form’s leaves turn yellowish.
Flowers: Flowers are rose-purple, rarely white, in clusters at
branch ends. The top three petals of the flower are fused together almost to the end to form a single lobe, whereas the bottom two are completely separate lips. The attractive blossoms are approximately 1½″ (3.8 cm) across and have 10 stamens, twice the number of most east coast natives. They flower in early May to June.
Fruits: Orange-brown seed cases are ⅜-7/16″ (1-1.2 cm) long,
occurring in clusters.