Rhododendrons and azaleas were introduced into European gardens early in the 19th century and were very different in form to the flowers growing in Europe at that time. They are native to Asia, and in Chinese culture are known as the "thinking of home” bushes.
The rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal and the state flower of Kashmir. The azalea is the city symbol of Sao Paulo in Brazil, so these flowers are celebrated in both hemispheres.
Some species of these flowers contain a toxin that can kill animals that graze on the bushes. Additionally, the honey from bees that have collected pollen from these blooms may be poisonous or hallucinogenic. Mention of this poison was made by ancient Greek soldiers in 400 BC.
Remember the curious fact that all azaleas are rhododendrons but not all rhododendrons are azaleas. While most azaleas are deciduous and lose their leaves in winter, rhododendrons usually are evergreen. Also, azaleas have hairs that are parallel to the surface of the leaf, whereas instead of having hairs, rhododendrons have scales or dots under their leaves. Azalea flowers are funnel shaped, while rhodi's are bell shaped and have 10 stamens rather than five.
This is Moya Andrews, and today we focused on azaleas and rhododendrons.