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Volume 54, Number 2
Spring 2000

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In Search of Native Azaleas
Henry T. Skinner's Historic Trip, 1951

Henry T. Skinner, Director
U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C.

Reprinted with permission from the Morris Arboretum Bulletin, January 1955, Vol. 6, No. 1

The following notes are set down as an abbreviated record of a rather extensive collecting trip in search of native azaleas. Besides telling something of the journey and the plants encountered the following pages will also include information concerning the plant specimens collected on this trip so that a record will be available to others who may chance to study these specimens at a later date or who may wonder in what woods, on what mountain top or along what stream a special azalea grows. But first an explanation.

Our native azaleas or "Bush Honeysuckles" were a source of admiration, frequently recorded, to the first European travelers on this continent. Several species found their way to Europe at an early date, were known to Linnaeus and were used in hybridization with the European Pontic Azalea* (Rhododendron flavum) and Oriental Rhododendron molle to produce the many-colored and very hardy Ghent hybrids which have graced our gardens for many years. But while a few species such as the Pinxterbloom (R. nudiflorum), Flame Azalea (R. calendulaceum) and Sweet Azalea (R. arborescens) have been cultivated to some extent in this country it seems strange indeed that until very recently no real attempts have been made either to select the better wildings for garden cultivation or to use them as parental breeding stocks for the production of finer hybrids than the old Ghents. There are excellent potentials for a new race which might well offer strong competition to the "Japanese" azaleas with which our gardens are now filled. These native azaleas have a color range from white to pink, red and yellow, they may be dwarf or very tall, single stemmed or more stoloniferous than a raspberry bush - and certain of them root readily from cuttings. What other characters could be desired? Perhaps evergreen leaves, but this is not impossible to the breeder.

It was a realization of these facts, plus an awareness of the marked limitations of our present knowledge of the botany, genetics or even geographic distribution of the native species which led to the planning of a research project at the Morris Arboretum calculated to provide more accurate information about our native azaleas, their natures, their natural occurrences and their behavior. A project with these objectives called for a study of the literature on azaleas, a detailed examination of herbarium materials assembled at various institutions and extensive study and collection in the field to determine more accurately the nature and distribution of the individuals comprising the taxonomic units as we now know them. The collection of many specimens at the same location provides data on variability which the single existing herbarium specimen cannot give, and this kind of information was essential for constructing a picture which may still require many years of examination and analysis to develop in its full clarity.

The project was initiated in 1950 in cooperation with the Department of Botany of the University of Pennsylvania and the Academy of Natural Sciences and was greatly advanced by a grant from the American Philosophical Society which made possible the field collecting trip of present concern and as undertaken by the writer during a leave of absence from regular duties at the Morris Arboretum. While this writer is indebted to many persons for assistance at all stages of this native azalea project, he is especially appreciative of the continuous guiding interest of Dr. W. H. Camp who was so largely responsible for the initiation of this venture, and to Dr. J. R. Schramm who, as Director of the Morris Arboretum, so effectively smoothed the way to make it possible.
Preparations and Departure

Plans for the collecting trip were laid early in 1951 and one of the first steps consisted of the preparation of a map of the eastern United States which could show by letter and color key the geographic distribution of wild azaleas likely to be in flower during each week from mid-March to mid-August, as discovered from numerous herbarium specimens previously studied. The canvas backing of this little map became very worn before the trip was over, for at every point this was the guide for direction of the next day's travel to catch azaleas in bloom. Then there was a large Rand-McNally atlas with location data for previously collected species. From a glance at this map one could tell where azaleas once grew, where collections had not been made and which points perhaps needed revisiting to clarify some question concerning the original collection.

These, plus endless additional maps, were the guides. The equipment was interestingly diverse, consisting of piles of presses, blotters, newspapers and a specially designed electric drier for the pressed specimens; of digging tools, shears, burlap an packing materials for handling the living plants, of the inevitable cameras, labels, tags, and notebooks and of course one's personal living needs for a matter of at least a month or so at a time. For transportation the Arboretum had provided a Chevrolet delivery truck which was most happily selected for size, speed and rideability as was repeatedly proved during the succeeding five months of continuous travel over everything from first class roads to trackless hillsides, through the freezing spring floods of the Mississippi or through summer drought at 104 degrees. Into this truck were piled these many supplies in time for a mid-afternoon departure from Philadelphia on Saturday, March 17th. The goal was Florida, for the first azalea on the time schedule of our map.

The first run south provided the customary thrill of this rapid journey into springtime: from Pennsylvania winter to quinces and daffodils in Richmond; wisterias in bloom with the exotic azaleas of Charleston; and then in Georgia the potently delightful scent of the Jessamine thicket (Gelsemium) on the damp of the evening air. It is no wonder that this Jessamine is a southern favorite; it is a wonder that it is so seldom seen in Washington or Philadelphia where its Virginia representatives would almost certainly succeed.

A Florida Start
The first azaleas or "Pink Honeysuckles" as a native of the South will always call them, were found with no little excitement along the edges of damp woods on the Florida side of the St. Marys River, along U.S. Route 1. They were plants whose flowers had deep pink tubes and pale to medium pink petals. The corolla tubes and often their supporting pedicel were covered with numerous little pin-head glands and the bud scales and unfolding leaves were hairy with a matted, silky pubescence. The only southern azalea with these several characters is R. canescens, the Florida Pinxter or Hoary Azalea and this indeed was it - as we (Chevy and I) were destined to follow it for several weeks and over enormous distances.

At an appropriate spot, where azaleas were plentiful, my first "mass collection" of 25 or 30 flower-shoot specimens was made by random selection from as many different plants. Each specimen was recorded by number in a notebook; flower measurements were taken, flower colors, plant heights, location and growing conditions were recorded before the specimens were placed between newspapers of the collecting press. During the evening at some tourist court they would be rearranged before placement in the electric drier. Wherever possible, quantity collections of this sort were made at intervals of some 60 miles, with intervening "country collections" of a mere five to eight specimens as more detailed indicators of distribution. A few run-of-the-mill small, living plants were taken at intervals for later study, just as were pieces, when detachable, of the unusual specimens with likely horticultural potentialities. Bundles of dried specimens or packages of accumulated plants were expressed to Philadelphia each week or so.

Quest of this early azalea led south as far as Putnam and Alachua counties in the general vicinity of Gainesville, Florida, but apparently no farther. Just south of here the high dryness of Ocala National Forest was explored with considerable thoroughness but without return, other than in a still vivid experience of driving the truck down a steep sandy and rutted road to a crossing of the Oklawaho River, only to find that the bridge had been washed out in a previous storm. The only negotiable return lay by slow stages through undisturbed woodland with both darkness and the bottom of the gasoline tank staging a neck and neck approach. Ultimately a logging trail was discovered and the rest was of chief significance in teaching a lesson in preparedness which stood us in good stead on several later occasions.

At Gainesville I took the opportunity to check native azaleas in the herbarium of the University of Florida and also to spend several instructive hours with Dr. H. H. Hume in search of azaleas and hollies of the area before again following R. canescens northwest. Apparently skipping the coastal counties of Lafayette, Taylor, etc., it reappeared in fine quantity on the banks of the Suwannee River near White Springs, where on a warm day it was being worked by honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies. It reappeared very conspicuously with dogwood on crossing the Fall Line in Madison County and it became evident that southward occurrences in this region are only, in fact, in very localized pockets, often widely separated. Still travelling west, this azalea reached perhaps a peak in quantity on the banks of the Yellow River in Okaloosa County where bushes became small trees of 15 ft. or more with heavy, branching trunks. It reached a second peak across the Sabine River in east Texas where the flowers seemed somewhat larger, their tubes longer and the leaves less hairy than in Florida and Georgia. Pure white forms and deep purple-red ones, those with large flowers and small ones with yellow blotches or with delightful scent - all were found during the next six weeks which eventually revealed a distribution of this species from the South Carolina coast around the Gulf to the Trinity River in Texas and north across Arkansas and Mississippi to southern Tennessee and southern North Carolina. It clearly covers an enormous area whose only major gaps are the neutral soils of the Mississippi Valley, the Red Hills of Mississippi and Alabama and a few regions not generally suited to ericaceous plants.

A Yellow Azalea
The first westward trip with R. canescens brought my introduction to the yellow Florida Azalea, R. austrinum, on March 26th near Geneva, Alabama, and in enormous quantity a few hours later along a woodland edge just south of the Florida-Alabama border. Apart from flower color, the general characters of this azalea are rather similar to those of R. canescens but it is more glandular. The little glistening red, pin-head glands cover pedicels and often vegetative shoots, as well as flower tubes. The flower may be wholly a clear, golden yellow or, more often, the petals may be yellow and tubes a variable strawberry red, giving one the impression that this red tube belongs more properly with R. canescens and has perhaps been acquired by R. austrinum after flowering at the same time along the same stream-sides and producing a proportion of those unmistakable anemic buff-colored hybrids for many years past. As the banks of the Yellow River grow luxuriant R. canescens so elsewhere they are appropriately covered with masses of the yellow "Florida" Azalea which was subsequently found to occupy a sizeable portion of western Florida, southeast Mississippi, southern Alabama, and southwest Georgia - about as much territory outside of Florida as in.

Later collections of R. austrinum were made on the return from Texas on a more northerly swing. Spring was advancing and R. canescens was in collecting condition as far east as Georgia's Altamaha river where it occurs in masses of rich pinks almost across from Old Fort Barrington and the former haunts of the long-lost Franklinia.

And Some Variations
Several curiosities had shown up: we had seen pure white canescens but in southern Alabama there were whites and pale pinks with yellow blotches and with the lemon scent of R. alabamense, yet they could not be identified as this species. At one point a woodland glade was surrounded by a bizarre display in yellow, orange, white-pink, salmon and every intermediate color one might name. Several of these plants were sent back, earmarked as progeny from an apparent triple union between R. canescens, austrinum, and alabamense. On a quick return across central Georgia and Alabama a curious break in R. canescens was found on the hills of northwest Alabama and across into Mississippi in which the flowers were somewhat smaller, of uniform color (lacking the red tube) and were often yellow blotched and scented. Through later collections, this variable assortment, typical of nothing in particular, was traced as far north as Cumberland County on Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau. Obviously they had points in common with the hybrid swarms above, but they are widespread, much older and almost certainly contain a dash of R. nudiflorum rather than the austrinum of the last mentioned mixture.

Rains had been heavy during the course of a too early search for R. alabamense proper and it was a mud covered Chevrolet that approached Atlanta, Georgia on the 20th of April to collect mail, replenish supplies and permit a brief pause for scheduled meetings with Jesse C. Nicholls, the azalea-conscious salamander purveyor of Murphy, North Carolina and with W. P. Lemmon of nearby Marietta, student of southern azaleas and authority for three recently described species.

The Red Azalea of Georgia
A few miles southwest of Atlanta our attention was momentarily caught by a splash of brilliant orange in a woodlot not far from the road. Brakes were promptly applied and subsequent investigation revealed an assortment of plants, 2-3 ft. high, in oranges, orange-reds, salmons and strong pinks. Unlike our collections to this point, these flowers were distinct in being almost totally devoid of pin-head glands, just as the leaves seemed nearly hairless on their undersides. Only one Georgia azalea fits a description of this sort and that is "red-flowered" R. speciosum, the Oconee azalea, which during the next day or so was pursued from here to north of Atlanta, across central Georgia to Augusta, and down the Savannah River to Clyo in the vicinity of its original place of discovery by Andre Michaux at Two Sisters Ferry. Not particular as to habitats in central Georgia, the Oconee Azalea is a rather confused species in this region. One can guess that it has been on too familiar terms with aggressive R. canescens for some time - with results becoming evident through individuals with large, salmon or strong pink flowers, with small red flowers with orange blotches or with variability in their possession of pin-head glands or leaf tomentum. Such variants thrive on level ground in warm, sunny places. On the Savannah River a more uniform Oconee Azalea remains an inhabitant of the fairly shady red clay bluffs of the west bank where specimens may be found in excellent deep Saturn red - a red of the Coastal Plain which is unlikely to fade under cultivation. At Two Sisters Ferry the present farm owner told me that he gave up the last ferry boat about thirty years ago. The old road to the river has long since grown up to brush but some aged orange-flowered specimens of R. speciosum still grow near the boat landing, just as Michaux saw and described them in 1787. This is a handsome azalea which has already become so scarce that protective measures might well be considered by those who love the wild plants of Georgia.

By the Atlantic to Virginia
Descent of the Savannah River in search of the Oconee Azalea had also led by design towards Beaufort County, South Carolina, which lies across the river on the Atlantic coast, due east of Clyo; but to cross the river one must necessarily travel very nearly to Savannah itself, which happened to be convenient for dispatching plants and for procuring labels and other needed supplies. Beaufort County, South Carolina, is the "type locality" for the Coast Azalea, R. atlanticum, which according to our map should be in flower at the end of April. Our lead was correct for on April 27th the first plants were found in quantity not far from Burton where they held splendid pink blossoms knee high above fern and inkberry in the moist soils of cutover oak woodland. From this point, and with sundry detours, the Coast Azalea was followed in constant flower through the coastal counties of the Carolinas and Virginia and, with a week or two's break, to its most northerly distributional point on the Delmarva peninsula in Delaware. Here in Delaware it is still a low growing azalea; it is generally white flowered and often highly glandular with pin-head glands on leaves and shoots as well as on the flower parts; the leaves may be glaucous beneath. It would seem likely that such plants as these are most akin to the original form of this azalea and that the pink flowered and less glandular representatives of South Carolina and Virginia may imply a measure of genie interchange with pink flowered R. canescens and nudiflorum of these regions.
In late April and early May the Coast Azalea makes truly a splendid sight as a multihued understory to the open pine woods of the coastal Carolinas. Since it is highly stoloniferous it recovers promptly in the wake of the brush fire or roadside trimming or grazing so that the year following will again see hundreds of upright flower clusters on wiry, knee-high stems borne by one plant an acre or more in extent. A mass collection of separate clones may necessitate covering a considerable territory to be sure that the 25 or 30 specimens are indeed different.

The course from Savannah to Norfolk, Virginia in search of R. atlanticum sounds very direct as just described. It is a distance of 500 road miles which was actually logged on the speedometer at a little more than twice this amount or 1200 miles - which is a fair illustration of the difference between plant collecting and just driving from one point to another! In this particular case the more inland pink azaleas of the Piedmont, R. canescens and nudiflorum, were also in flower so that the interior counties of the Carolinas were covered in a fairly thorough fashion on a zig-zag route which hit back to the coast at intervals instead of merely following it.

These side excursions were productive of many specimens and several valuable pieces of information. In South Carolina they yielded material from hybrid swarms obviously involving both R. canescens and atlanticum which are interesting as an indication that a measure of gene exchange does occur between these species; also in South Carolina it was discovered that the inland red clay hills of the Piedmont, which lie roughly between Columbia and Greenville, support very few azaleas. These hills grow excellent red cedar and have a soil pH often in the vicinity of 7.0, which is doubtless the explanation; and finally, in southern North Carolina, was discovered the interesting area of geographic overlap between southern R. canescens and northern nudiflorum as represented by pink flowered azaleas whose morphology might well test the patience of any precise taxonomist (and as they doubtless have).

A Virginia Transect
Saturday, May 5th, dawned a soft, spring day amid the attractions of Colonial Williamsburg; but it was an unusual tourist who departed as early as he had arrived late, having spent time to enjoy no more than a bed and a passing view of the Palace Green in his hurry to catch as many as possible of the "honeysuckles" now blooming from here to Alabama and the mid west.

Of immediate concern was a planned sampling of the Virginia population of R. nudiflorum as it extends from Chesapeake Bay and the habitat of R. atlanticum to the Blue Ridge and the mountain home of the northern Roseshell Azalea, R. roseum. Variation in the Pinxterbloom Azalea had already posed some questions upon which a transect sampling of this kind was expected to shed light. Mass collections of R. nudiflorum were made in Gloucester County at the mouth of the Chesapeake and were continued across the state at intervals of approximately forty miles to the base of the Blue Ridge near Sperryville. From this point collections were made at each 500 ft. increase in elevation to the top of Pinnacle Peak in the Shenandoah National Park, permission to make such collections in the National Parks and Forests of the East having been obtained during the planning stages of the expedition. One of the exciting finds was at the start of this run, not far from Gloucester, Va., where among some cut-back Pinxterblooms near the roadside was one with perhaps the most remarkable coloring I saw anywhere. It was a large blossom in an intense plum purple with strong yellow blotch. There was only one flower head which I cut for a specimen and after measuring, recording and pressing the collection I returned to dig the plant for horticultural use. But unhappily my "find" was already a loss for the small plant could nowhere be found in the heavy brush. Henceforth I learned to dig first and cut afterward - or mark the plant!

At the western end of this transect, azaleas were only just coming into flower at low elevations of the Blue Ridge on this first visit on May 7th. On a return on May 21st, similar azaleas were collectible to two-thirds up the mountain. Completion of the transect at the highest elevations was not possible until June 2nd, or in other words an elevation increase of approximately 2400 ft. delayed flowering by almost a month.

By this time (May 8th) R. alabamense, an azalea on which more information is needed, was surely coming into flower in Alabama. This, therefore, was the direction chosen after a brief stop for packing and mailing a good batch of specimens. This time the route kept to the western edge of Virginia and the Carolinas to secure one more coverage of R. nudiflorum and canescens before striking into Georgia where the latter species was now just about over. A call was made at the University of Georgia in Athens before heading north via Gainesville to the mountains of Lumpkin Country for a check on Flame Azalea in the vicinity of Neel Gap. Early R. calendulaceum was full out in clear yellows to deep orange in Vogel State Park; it was also seen in exceptionally large flowered specimens in a small ravine just north of Gainesville. One or two of these had such brilliantly red color that one instinctively thought of the Oconee Azalea growing not too far south - and wondered whether this red in Georgia calendulaceum might have a rather special significance.

Again heading southeast, it was on May 12th that the first true R. alabamense was found in full flower on the same hilltop in Marshall County of North Central Alabama where they had been seen in tight bud almost a month earlier. It was a real thrill to find this beautiful little white azalea with its dainty, thin-tubed flowers, yellow blotched and deliciously lemon scented. In its "best" individuals this azalea of the Alabama hills is also low growing and quite stoloniferous, it bears foliage which is often glaucous beneath - and as glandular as that of white flowered, low growing and stoloniferous R. atlanticum of coastal Delaware.

R. alabamense is obviously later flowering than R. canescens but the two have nevertheless hybridized to produce numerous intermediate individuals, intermediate in flowering time, often taller growing than the true Alabama Azalea and varying in color from pure or yellow-blotched white to pinks, often without the deep pink tube of canescens proper. As it is followed through Cullman and Winston counties the Alabama Azalea is found very much on the fairly dry hilltops and often on the eastern slopes where it seems tolerant of considerably more shade than R. canescens.

Still white flowered but taller growing and in less "pure" form, it leaves the wooded hilltops to flow down sunny slopes to the Sipsey River in a mantle of May snow, as far as the eye can see. In such places, though without such pronounced fragrance, this is unquestionably the clearest and showiest of all white native azaleas.

Much as one would have liked to linger in this intriguing collecting area, the azaleas of the north were now calling much too loudly - calendulaceum, atlanticum north of Virginia, roseum and nudiflorum in Pennsylvania and New York, and soon; and none of them would wait. But information was still needed on the early azaleas of Tennessee. A route was consequently taken due north across the Tennessee River in the vicinity of Mussel Shoals, then east through southern Tennessee to the rising escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau. Other hills of northern Alabama were covered with the confusing R. canescens-alabamense complex mentioned earlier but good R. canescens was again found in the occasional sphagnum bogs which are scattered across the red soil land of southern Tennessee. These red soils are interspersed with limestone outcrops, and produce abundant black locust and red cedar, but few azaleas, except in these upland bogs. If these boggy areas are followed northeast from Fayetteville towards McMinnville, Tennessee, their azalea populations undergo a hesitant transition from R. canescens towards nudiflorum settling down as relatively "pure" nudiflorum in the lowlands of Cumberland County. But the picture is quite different if we proceed directly east from Fayetteville and ascend the escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau. From below Sewanee the lower limestone strata are overlain with sandstone and beyond this point azaleas are immediately abundant in a confused complex reminiscent of R. canescens, nudiflorum and alabamense - all thoroughly mixed together and varying in flower color from pure white to lavender, pale pink with pale tubes and pink with deep red tubes, many of the plants being highly stoloniferous. On the plateau this complex again extends north for 70 miles or more to Cumberland County, just as we have already followed it across northern Alabama from Mississippi.

On the southern edge of the Crab Orchard Mountains in Cumberland County a small detour was taken to explore Grassy Cove, a limestone sink of such proportions that farms and a small village are found on the level fertile floor of the huge hole sunken many hundreds of feet below the present level of the plateau. It has its own meandering river which flows northwest to disappear into a gaping cavern, and then changes its direction beneath a mountain whose lowest pass is 1000 ft. above the cove floor. It eventually reappears as the Sequatchie River flowing south towards Chattanooga. This was but one of so many marvels of scenery whose exploration and enjoyment was a constantly fascinating accompaniment to this quest for azaleas.

From Grassy Cove the route lay down the scenic Sequatchie Valley with side excursions to the plateau ridges on either side. On the upper sandstones azaleas remained abundant but on the limestone valley floor they occur only along occasional stream sides amid sandstone boulders washed from the upper slopes. It was repeatedly observed that azaleas grow in limestone areas, often abundantly, but detailed observation invariably reveals a situation like the above or a restriction to leached hilltop soils a few inches or few feet in thickness as they cap the limestone ridges of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Leaving the Sequatchie Valley by striking east over the Walden Ridge the road descended into the Great Valley of the Tennessee River. It crossed the river and valley in a south-easterly direction and ascended the foothills of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the vicinity of the Cherokee National Forest. Apart from the appalling vegetational desolation resulting from copper smelting in the Copperhill-Ducktown region of Polk Co., Tennessee, the uplands of this southern mountain area present some of the finest scenery and most luxuriant forest cover discoverable in the East. Across into North Carolina the great National Forest of Nantahala is named for the Indians' "Land of the Noonday Sun." Here the valley sides are so steep that direct sunlight is soon lost, while an annual rainfall of over 80 inches is only matched on this continent in local areas of the Pacific Northwest. Within this forest an initial visit was made to the summit of 5400 ft. Wayoh Bald, native habitat of R. arborescens var. Richardsonii as recognized by Rehder. But the mountain is populated by only late flowering azaleas, none of which were yet open. However, typical large flowered R. calendulaceum was found in full flower at lower altitudes on entering North Carolina and was thus followed to Asheville and well up into Virginia. A half day pause was made at Asheville and the Biltmore Estate to examine a part of Louis Shelton's diversified charge - the Beadle collection of native azaleas, which without question is the finest anywhere assembled. The visit was especially enjoyable in the instructive company of Sylvester Owens, who assisted in collecting the many hundreds of plants and in whose immediate understanding care they fortunately remain.

The Virginia Mountains
Back in Virginia R. roseum and nudiflorum were still in flower and in the Jefferson National Forest on a hill slope near Konnarock a collection was made of an interesting group of triple hybrids involving these two species and R. calendulaceum - which would imply the somewhat puzzling combinations of two diploids and a tetraploid if published chromosome counts have actual application in the wild. The hybrid progeny included small, sweet scented pinks with yellow blotches all the way to salmon yellows of the same flower size as normal Flame Azalea.

Farther north a second especially interesting stop was at Peaks of Otter in the Blue Ridge where a transect was run down the west side of Broad Top Mountain. This transect took five hours to accomplish and was decided upon after brief analysis of intermediate elements of a continuous azalea cover which runs from elegant, highly glandular R. roseum on the mountain top through transitional stages of vari-colored, stoloniferous individuals to "good" R. nudiflorum at lower elevations conveniently reached by a gravel road sharply descending from the much-traveled Skyline Parkway.

Taking a somewhat westerly detour, the next main stopping point was a return visit to the Shenandoah National Park for further collections on the Pinnacle Peak transect after obtaining maps and much helpful advice from Park Naturalist Paul Favor. This was on May 21st and time was passing. With the last specimen tucked away - around 6 p.m. it seemed increasingly imperative to reach Delaware as soon as possible for a last collection of Coast Azaleas. The road lay via Washington and the Annapolis ferry, the new Bay Bridge being as yet under construction. With a pause for a joint gas tank and personal refueling in Washington the 112 miles to Annapolis was completed still in time to find lodgings for the night.

Crossing the Chesapeake by ferry early next morning a search was begun for Choptank Mills, Delaware, this being a remembered collecting locality of Philadelphia's Witmer Stone in 1904. Exclusive of type localities this was one of the few occasions on which a former collecting site was deliberately sought, in this case to save time. But the opposite results were secured. Choptank Mills was not on the map; by telegraph inquiry it was unknown to the State Police of Delaware, Maryland or Virginia or even to the Postmistress of Choptank - after a lengthy drive to locate this tiny, unhurried village at the mouth of the Choptank River in Maryland. No Coast Azalea was seen and only one clue remained to investigate: the Choptank River did have a source in Delaware as a small stream in the vicinity of Sandtown. By this time we were driving the Atlantic side of the peninsula and a few azaleas had been located; at Sandtown, however, they suddenly appeared in such abundance in pure white to pale pink flowers for roadside miles that at least the ghost of Choptank Mills of 1904 must surely be nearby! Most of this was splendid dwarf, stoloniferous and highly glandular R. atlanticum, the kind of plant one could easily regard as a prototype of the rather confused canescens - friendly representatives of its South Carolina "type locality" - and a single plant of it would have been well worth the time and mileage of the search to find it.

Back to Philadelphia that evening and the enjoyment of three whole days of complete relaxation, only passingly devoted to checking specimens, restocking supplies and generally preparing for the last short haul of another nine or ten weeks in the field.

(To be continued in a JARS v54n3.)

* "Azalea" is here used as the popular name for all deciduous or semi-evergreen members of the genus Rhododendron, in which genus they have been combined with the fully evergreen rhododendrons in current botanical practice.

JARS Editor's Note: Several azaleas in Dr. Skinnner's report have since been reclassified. Consult the RHS The Genus Rhododendron, Its classification & synonomy, 1996, published by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.


Volume 54, Number 2
Spring 2000

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