Image of wild red Azalea’s captured in the summer sun. Photo taken in Phildelphia, PA.
Azaleas /əˈzeɪliə/ are flowering shrubs in the genus Rhododendron, particularly sections Tsutsuji (evergreen) and Pentanthera (deciduous). Azaleas bloom in spring, their flowers often lasting several weeks. Shade tolerant, they prefer living near or under trees. They are part of the Ericaceae family.
In Chinese culture, the azalea is known as “thinking of home bush” (sixiang shu) and is immortalized in the poetry of Du Fu and is used to rich effect in contemporary stories such as by Taiwanese author Pai, Hsien-Yung.
The azalea is also one of the symbols of the city of São Paulo, in Brazil.
In addition to being renowned for its beauty, the Azalea is also highly toxic—it contains andromedotoxins in both its leaves and nectar, including honey from the nectar. The Azalea and Rhododendron were once so infamous for their toxicity that to receive a bouquet of their flowers in a black vase was a well-known death threat.