Here’s the full-blown Azalea, perfuming the air,
Here’s the Cardinal-flower, that a princess might wear.
—from “Let Us Go to the Woods,” Anonymous
From a cold wet winter to a cool wet spring, the weather has set up a late-blooming spring flower season. I was surprised to see azaleas flowering in late May.
And in the woods a fragrance rare
Of wild azaleas fills the air,
And richly tangled overhead
We see their blossoms sweet and red.
— from “Spring Scatters Far and Wide” Dora Read Goodale (1866 – 1915, American poetess)
The fair azalea bows
Beneath its snowy crest.
—from “She Blooms no More” by Mrs. Sarah Helen Power Whitman, (1803–1878, American poetess)
Some one dropt me a charm to-day,
Dropt and vanished and bade me hope;
Yellow azalea, one tall spray,
Caught from a flashing fairy slope.
—from “Azalea” by Arthur Christopher Benson (1862–1925)
Azaleas are related to rhododendrons and blueberries. Azaleas that we are familiar with today descend from Asian shrubs. They were first cultivated by monks in the Buddhist monasteries. After seeds of the Rhododendron luteum were shipped to England from the shores of the Black Sea, the plants that grew from them became parent to many azalea hybrids.
Azaleas are a symbol of the astrological sign Sagittarius, the ninth in the zodiac cycle (November 22 to December 22). Azalea is also a girl’s name, of Greek origin, meaning dry. This flowering shrub that blooms during the spring thrives in dry soil. The use of the name dates from the 1700s. The azalea is a symbol for several cities; they are Wilmington, North Carolina; Valdosta, Georgia; and Sao Paolo, Brazil. The Chinese believe that the azalea symbolizes womanhood and temperance.