Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Early Azalea - Rhododendron prinophyllum   (Small) Millais
Members of Ericaceae:
Members of Rhododendron with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Ericales » Family Ericaceae
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Author(Small) Millais
DistributionOccurs only in Ashe County, and known from just Bluff Mountain. The species has been known from this mountain since before 1960, but (sadly) no other location in the state has been found, though there is a report, probably incorrect, from Transylvania County.

This is primarily a Northern species, with an oddly disjunct range. It ranges from southern ME and northern NY south to extreme northwestern NC. However, there is a disjunct population from northwestern GA and central AL; and another disjunct population mainly in MO, AR, and eastern OK.
AbundanceVery rare in the state, and found only at a single location. Thankfully, this is a protected site and there are hundreds of plants present. This is a State Threatened species.
HabitatIn NC it occurs only over high pH soil (amphibolite rock) in a dry upland hardwood (oak) forest, at a high elevation (over 4000 feet).
PhenologyBlooms mainly in mid-May at Bluff Mountain, as the leaves emerge; fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a medium-sized deciduous shrub, mainly 6-10 feet tall, with showy bright pink to rose-pink flowers, typical of azalea species. The leaves are also typical of the deciduous azaleas, being elliptical, not shiny, and clustered at or near branch tips. When in bloom at Bluff Mountain, identification should be obvious. The flowers are somewhat richer pink in color than are those of R. periclymenoides, with a somewhat shorter floral tube.
Taxonomic CommentsThis species was named as R. roseum until fairly recently.

Other Common Name(s)Often called Election Pink, but many other plants are named as “xxx Pink”, and these common names should mainly be reserved for herbaceous species in the “Pink Family” – i.e., Caryophyllaceae, such as Fire Pink, Deptford Pink, etc. Roseshell Azalea is another name.
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusT
US Status
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USACE-empFAC link
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B.A. SorriePhoto taken at Mount Toby, Franklin County, MA, in 1980s. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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