Rhododendron calendulaceum


Rhododendron calendulaceum, also known as the Flame Azalea, is surely one of the most spectacular native shrubs of the Appalachian Mountains. The flowers are larger than most of the natives, measuring from 1.5 to 2.5 inches across, and come in a wide range of colors from clear yellow, through shades of orange, to brilliant red.

First collected by A. Michaux in 1795 from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, this species has a wide range of distribution from southern New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio as a northern limit, southward through the Appalacian mountains to northern Georgia. In late May and June, entire hillsides can be washed with brilliant color as these magnificent azaleas come into bloom.

R. calendulaceum is difficult to propagate by cuttings, but is easily raised from seed. Please leave the plants in the wild for others to enjoy, and purchase blooming-sized seedlings from specialty nurseries for garden use since young plants establish easlily in the garden. R. calendulaceum is a naturally occuring tetraploid, having twice the number of chromosomes in comparison to the other native species. Because of this fact, it does not hybridize easily with most of the other natives and even if a first generation cross is made, the resulting hybrids are often sterile.

Distribution Map

Plants in the Wild


Macon Co., NC
(Wayah Bald)

Franklin Co., VA

Floyd Co., VA
(Blue Ridge Parkway)

Yancey Co., NC
(Blue Ridge Parkway)

Swain Co., NC
(Andrews Bald)

Roan Mountain NC/TN
(Round Bald)

Variations in Flower Form


Roan Mountain, NC/TN
(Engine Gap)

Roan Mountain, NC/TN
(Engine Gap)

Roan Mountain, NC/TN
(Jane's Bald)

Franklin Co, VA
(Blue Ridge Parkway)

Graham Co., NC
(Hooper Bald)

Macon Co, NC
(Wayah Bald)

Roan Mountain, NC/TN
(Round Bald)
The images presented here are reproduced with permission from color slides taken by the Species Study Group of the Middle Atlantic Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. The slides are numbered, and correspond to the sequence used in the program Eastern Native Azalea Species presented by George K. McLellan at the East Coast Regional Conference of the ARS in November 1999.


More R. calendulaceum

East Coast Native Azaleas
R. vaseyi
R. canadense
R. canescens
R. austrinum
R. flammeum
R. periclymenoides
R. alabamense
R. atlanticum
R. calendulaceum
R. prinophyllum
R. viscosum
R. arborescens
R. cumberlandense
R. prunifolium
R. eastmanii

Identifying the Native Azaleas