Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Flame Azalea - Rhododendron calendulaceum   (Michaux) Torrey
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Section 6 » Order Ericales » Family Ericaceae
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Author(Michaux) Torrey
DistributionThroughout the mountains, and also locally in the Piedmont foothills and sparingly into the western third of the Piedmont.

This is a southern and central Appalachian endemic. It ranges north only to southern PA and southern OH; it extends south to western GA and central AL.
AbundanceCommon and quite widespread across the mountains, occurring in all counties. Quite local and generally rare to uncommon in the foothills, and very rare and restricted mainly to cool slopes and bluffs in the west-central Piedmont.
HabitatThis is a characteristic shrub of dry to mesic hardwood forests – especially forests dominated by oaks, more numerous at high elevations. It is not found in rich cove forests. It can be found around the margins of grass or shrub balds. In the Piedmont, where the climate is warmer, it favors cool, sheltered north-facing slopes and bluffs.
PhenologyBlooms from late April to June, and rarely to July, generally as the leaves are unfurling; fruits from July to September.
IdentificationThis is a medium-sized, deciduous shrub, growing to an average of 6-15’ tall. When in bloom, with its nearly unique large orange flowers – few shrubs in the region have orange flowers – it cannot be mistaken and is one of the showiest of all shrubs. The flowers range from a yellow-orange to scarlet, but on a given shrub the flowers are the same color. If not in bloom, Flame Azalea can be difficult to identify, as its obovate, clustered leaves – not overly shiny or dark, do not attract attention. Note that the very rare Cumberland Azalea (R. cumberlandense) has red to scarlet flowers and grows in a small area of the Flame Azalea’s range; check that species account for more information on identification.
Taxonomic CommentsNo issues with this being a good species, but one or two other taxa – such as Cumberland Azalea – have been included within R. calendulaceum by some authorities, at least in the past.

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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Joe ShimelMOJE 2010-05-13 AshePhoto_natural
K. SafleyELKN 2012-06-20 WataugaPhoto_natural
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