NC Arboretum: Native Azaleas- From the Mountains to the Lab and Back

August 15, 2024
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way Asheville, NC 28806

When going for a walk in the great outdoors of western North Carolina, it isn’t long before something will catch your eye. “Ooo, a red eft! So cute and fierce.” You also realize that there is amazing plant diversity all around, from the small plants where the red efts hide through the brushy understory up to the forest canopy. One group of the brushy understory is native azaleas, which are quite distinct from the evergreen azaleas one sees in many gardens. Come learn how to recognize native azaleas – their diversity across more than a dozen species, where they occur naturally, and “Ooo! Look at that one. I wish I could have it on my property” – and how to propagate them in order to preserve them. Be better equipped to spot and understand our native azaleas during your walks and hikes throughout western North Carolina.

Andy Whipple has been a gardener for most of his life. While living in Indiana he planted a large vegetable garden, then a small orchard of 50 fruit trees, and then moved on to ornamentals. Among the many different kinds of ornamentals he planted were native (deciduous) azaleas. Andy’s “Ooo” moment came while touring a garden in the Atlanta area, where touring Earl Sommerville’s garden and seeing Earl’s native azaleas knocked his socks off. His training and research in cell biology includes several years doing animal tissue culture, which allowed him to readily apply that skill set to the micropropagation of deciduous azaleas. He spent one semester at the Mountain Horticultural Research and Extension Center, primarily contributing to the work in the tissue culture lab.

NC Arboretum: Summer Native Flora ID