Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Hoary Azalea - Rhododendron canescens   (Michaux) Sweet
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Section 6 » Order Ericales » Family Ericaceae
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Author(Michaux) Sweet
DistributionPrimarily the southern Coastal Plain, north only to Robeson and Bladen counties. There are a few widely scattered records in the eastern Piedmont and possibly in the mountains – apparently incorrectly identified.

The species has a more east-west range than north-south range. It ranges north only to NC, northern TN, and extreme southern IL; it occurs south to central FL, the Gulf of Mexico, and southeastern TX. This species is quite similar to one or two others, especially R. periclymenoides, and thus some extralimital reports may be in error.
AbundanceGenerally uncommon or infrequent in the southern Coastal Plain; not common or widespread. Apparently not native to the Piedmont or mountains.
HabitatThis species is most frequent along the margins of swamps and other wet/damp forests, such as creek margins. It may occur at times in pocosins or savanna margins.
PhenologyBlooms from March to early May, usually before the leaves expand; fruits in September and October.
IdentificationThis is a medium-sized, deciduous shrub growing from 3-10’ tall, typically at least 6’ tall. It has the typical large “azalea” flowers of all deciduous Rhododendron species, being light pink to rarely white. However, it looks very similar to the much more common and widespread Pink Azalea (R. periclymenoides), though the latter species generally is found to the north of R. canescens in NC. Where both species occur in the same region, Hoary Azalea usually occurs in wetter, swampier habitat; the twigs are typically quite hairy/tomentose; and the floral tube is usually narrower and longer than on Pink Azalea (making the petals look shorter).
Taxonomic CommentsA few references, including NatureServe, list varieties for this species, but most do not. A few old references suggested that this species and R. periclymenoides might be the same species.

Other Common Name(s)Piedmont Azalea, Mountain Azalea, Southern Pinxter Azalea, Wild Azalea, Florida Pinxter Azalea. No single common name is really a dominant one, including Hoary Azalea.
State RankS2S3
Global RankG5
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