The Viscose Series of Native Azaleas
S. D. Coleman, Fort Gaines, Ga.
I am as a child on a mountain top with the whole world of knowledge spread before me. I can only pick up a little from this plant and a little from that plant, a little from friends and a little from books, so at the age of seventy-two I feel that I should have started this work at the age of twelve, and still there would be plenty ahead of me.
I wish to write a bit concerning my observations of the R. Viscose Series of Azaleas. This Series was classed in with the sub-series luteum (yellow), but it does not have the yellow or orange blotch on the upper lobe. Azalea viscosa - the type species is a plant growing up to eighteen feet, trumpet shaped flowers, white, nearly glabrous winter buds, willowy branches, some have very nice flowers, gland tipped hairs on the tube and fragrant. There are many variations in this mountain swamp plant. A. montana is said to be one, but seemingly the variants are a cross of the two species (A. viscosa X A. montana). A. montana has very dark and small winter buds with few bud scales. The little plants often have very heavy and large root stocks, yet the plants are only one or two feet high, occurring along old road sides. Sometimes they are found growing under A. viscosa.
At the head of Green River, near Cedar Mountain, North Carolina, you will find two or three variations, one being so heavily viscose that the flowers mat together and flies are caught in this sticky tangle.
On the High Hampton Road west of Brevard, North Carolina there is a variety that reaches three feet in height that has grey pubescent buds, and sometimes you find a plant with pink flowers. There is one called Saludacola that is found near Saluda, North Carolina, a tall growing variant, reaching eight to ten feet, with white blossoms, with narrow green foliage. A. montana does not grow well at Fort Gaines, Georgia.
A. serrulata, a southern swamp plant, also having many variations, ranges in height from four feet to eighteen feet. The plant listed as A. serrulata - variety 'Georgiana,' I believe to be a natural hybrid of A. serrulata and A. aeniulans.
As in all species there are many variations and natural hybrids. My version of a species is that it is a plant that will produce a likeness of the mother plant from seed.
A. aemulans - specimens of this plant we A. viscosa. It grows one terrace above A. serrulata, mixing in the northern border of A. serrulata, some plants are very small, a few up to twelve feet, some plants have very neat glabrous foliage while others have heavy pubescence on the under side of the foliage. The winter buds are light grey and pointed. Some have dark gland tipped hairs on the corolla tube, while others have light colored hairs. It blooms just after A. alabamens and I believe I have a natural hybrid of the two. It fills a gap in the time of blooming. It blooms with A. arborescens, and there is a similarity in the fragrance of the two species, although much difference otherwise. A. aemulans is a Southwest Georgia and a Southeast Alabama plant occuring in the upper habitat of A. serrulata.
Azalea oblongifolia - a plant found growing west of the Mississippi River in Texas to Arkansas. It has a long trumpet-type white flower with the same willowy type plants as others in this viscose group. I have a few clones from one plant, not enough to provide much field for study. I prefer at least three different plants from a location as a basis for study.
I have noticed that we always have a non-fragrant red species that blooms at the same time as a species that has fragrant blooms. A. calendulacea - a yellow to near red, and A. bakeri - a red to yellow, are species with non-fragrant flowers that bloom at the same time as A. arborescens and A. montana which have fragrant flowers. Also A. speciosa, a red to many shades of pink and a rare yellow, is a non-fragrant species that blooms with A. alabamense which is a fragrant species. Also A. prunifolia, a red and sometimes near yellow, has non-fragrant flowers, and blooms with the North Georgia variety of A. arborescens and A. serrulata, which are fragrant.
Although there is a difference in growth, time of bloom, winter buds, a slight difference in flowers, quite a bit of difference in foliage and a wide range in habitat, there does seem to be a connection between the five species of this series. A. oblongifolia, A. serrulata, and A. aemulans as a rule are pretty pure strains, the winter buds and foliage running pretty true to type.
In Azalea viscosa and A. montana you may and will find almost any type and variation.
This series or alliance has separated into several species, probably as a result of geographical variations, soil nutrients, or in breeding, but seemingly not by hybridizing with outside species. In the mountain species A. viscosa and A. montana with all the variations to be found, study shows these variants to be a result of crossing between the two species and not by crossing with other species. A study of the foliage and winter buds show this to be true.
A. serrulata has some variations, the early varieties coming in contact with A. aemulans. This can be detected by a study of the buds and foliage and sometimes in the flowers. A. aemulans is the earliest of the Alliance to bloom and A. serrulata is the latest.
By selection one can find the largest flowers in the A. aemulans and A. viscosa species.