There was a time when Georgia did not have a state wild flower.
It was way back in 1916, during World War One and before the roaring twenties and the stock market collapse of 1929, before the Great Depression and World War Two, before the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War, that Georgia adopted its official state floral emblem, the Cherokee rose.
In 1979, the Georgia General Assembly chose to address the issue of a state wild flower. Azaleas, "considered by many to be the most beautiful of indigenous shrubs," were an obvious choice.
House Joint Resolution No. 76 proposed that the many varieties of azalea growing in the state be named "Georgia's state wild flower." The resolution was approved by both houses of the Georgia General Assembly and signed by Governor George Dekle Busbee on April 19, 1979.
Joint Resolution of the Georgia General Assembly
April 19, 1979
AZALEA DESIGNATED AS "STATE WILD FLOWER".
No. 76 (House Resolution No.207-803).
Designating the azalea as the "State Wild Flower"; and for other purposes.
WHEREAS, although the State of Georgia has designated a "State Flower," she has never had a "State Wild Flower"; and
WHEREAS, those species of azalea which are native to the southeastern United States are considered by many to be the most beautiful of indigenous shrubs; and
WHEREAS, while many species and varieties of the azalea are found across the State of Georgia from the mountains to the sea, several species, including Rhododendron Austrinum, prunifolium, canescens, alabamense, calendulaceum, speciosum, arborescens, serrulatum, and other, are found in every county of the State; and
WHEREAS, the dazzling blossoms of these wild flowers range in color from white to yellow, orange, scarlet, crimson, and intermediate colors, some with conspicuous color blotches; and
>WHEREAS, with proper selection of species, the azalea blossom is available from March until July and August; and
WHEREAS, native azaleas are hardier and, once established, require less care than other horticultural varieties; and
WHEREAS, from Bartram's time until the present, azaleas have covered our State with beauty; and
WHEREAS, it is only fit and proper that the azalea be designated the "State Wild Flower."
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA that the azalea is hereby designated as Georgia's "State Wild Flower."
Approved April 19, 1979.
Source: Ga. Laws 1979, pp. 1387-1388.
Though no specific variety is named in the statute, several "native" varieties are named in the nominating joint resolution as appearing in every county of the state. Among them are are Rhododendron Austrinum, R. prunifolium, R. canescens, R. alabamense, R. calendulaceum, R. speciosum, R. arborescens, and R. serrulatum.
The azalea served the State of Georgia well for thirty-four years.
But on February 11, 2013, State Representative Debbie Buckner filed House Bill No. 297 to clarify the intention of the original resolution. She was convinced that the earlier resolution intended the "native" azalea to be the recipient of the official wild flower designation and her bill was introduced to ensure that this was understood. *
“There’s a difference between the azalea and the native azalea,” she said. Her legislation proposed that "azalea" in the original declaration be replaced by "native azalea."
On February 26, 2013, a substitute version of House Bill No. 338, "relating to the Georgia Council for the Arts, so as to clarify the role of arts in economic development," was passed by a vote of the House of Representatives. It was received in the Georgia Senate on February 27, 2013. But House Bill No. 338 did not even mention azaleas -- at least not at that time.
Several days later, on March 4, 2013, Rep. Bruckner's native azalea bill, House Bill No 297, was passed unanimously by a vote of the Georgia House of Representatives.
There was still a good month before the Wild Azalea festival held each year at the William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve.
House Bill No. 297 was forwarded to the Senate for consideration with hope for a smooth ride. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
The Senate received House Bill No. 297 on March 5, 2013 and referred it to the Senate Committee on Government Oversight where it seemed destined to remain.
The days passed, turned into weeks, and passed some more. House Bill No. 297 remained stuck in the Senate Committee on Government Oversight.
Remember House Bill No. 338?
On March 28, 2013, Senator Joshua McKoon, from the floor of the Senate, put forth an amendment to House Bill No. 338. The proposed amendment, unrelated to the bill's original focus, would add the necessary verbiage to adopt the "native" azaleas as Georgia's official state wild flower.
The amendment was approved and House Bill No. 338, as amended was passed by the Senate on the same day. The House of Representatives followed suit and agreed to the amended bill on the same day.
House Bill No. 338 was sent to Governor John Nathan Deal on April 3, 2013, three days before the Wild Azalea Festival.
Governor Deal held onto the bill for a month before signing it on May 7, 2013. The law declaring the "native azalea" the official wild flower of the State of Georgia went into effect on July 1, 2013 in plenty of time for the 2014 Wild Azalea Festival.
* The legislation calls for native azaleas, collectively, to be recognized as the Georgia state wild flower. This is because there are many varieties or species, twelve or thirteen, that are cosidered native to Georgia.
The following information was excerpted from the Georgia Code, Title 50, Chapter 3, Article 3, Section 50-3-54.
TITLE 50. STATE GOVERNMENT
CHAPTER 3. STATE FLAG, SEAL, AND OTHER SYMBOLS
ARTICLE 3. OTHER STATE SYMBOLS
O.C.G.A. § 50-3-54 (2014)
§ 50-3-54. State wild flower
The native azaleas (Rhododendron sp.), collectively, are designated as the Georgia state wild flower.
HISTORY: Ga. L. 1979, p. 1387; Ga. L. 2013, p. 1042, § 5/HB 338.
Yeomens, Curt. "Annual Azalea Celebration Ready to Bloom." The Clayton Daily News. The Clayton Daily News, 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.
"Legislative Notebook: Georgia’s State Wildflower Clarified." The Macon Telegraph. The Macon Telegraph, 4 Mar. 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
"2013-2014 Regular Session - HB 297." Georgia General Assembly. State of Georgia, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
"2013-2014 Regular Session - HB 338." Georgia General Assembly. State of Georgia, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
"Official Code of Georgia." LexisNexis.com. LexisNexis. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
Shankle, George Earlie. State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers, and Other Symbols. Irvine, Calif.: Reprint Services Corp, Revised edition, 1971.
Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.
Gerogia Native Azaleas: Website of Earl Sommerville.
Native Azaleas: The Azalea Society of America.
How to Grow Native Azaleas: Article by TOm Order .
Transplanting Native Azaleas and Their Propogation by Root Cuttings: Journal American Azalia Society:Spring 1979, Volume 33, Number 2 from Virginia Tech Digital Library and Archives.
Georgia Native Plant Society: Official website of the Georgia Native Plant Society.
Rhododendron arborescens ( (Pursh) Torr. (smooth azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron atlanticum (Ashe) Rehder (dwarf azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron austrinum (Small) Rehder (orange azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron calendulaceum (Michx.) Torr. (flame azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron canescens (Michx.) Sweet (mountain azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron colemanii (Red Hills azalea): Journal of the American Rhododendron Society, Spring 2008.
Rhododendron cumberlandense E.L. Braun (Cumberland rhododendron): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron flammeum (Michx.) Sarg. (piedmont azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron periclymenoides (Michx.) Shinners (pink azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron prinophyllum Small) Millais (early azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron prunifolium (Small) Millais (plumleaf azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
Rhododendron viscosum (L.) Torr. (swamp azalea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plants Database.
State wild flowers: Complete list of official state wild flowers from NETSTATE.COM
More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Georgia state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.
American Azaleas, by L. Clarance Towe. 188 pages. Publisher:Timber Press (August 15, 2004)
American azaleas are not used as much as they should be in gardens and in landscaping, even in areas where the plants are native and are common along roadsides.
North America is home to all the deciduous azaleas, members of the genus Rhododendron. There are native American azaleas suitable for a wide variety of garden environments. Gardeners interested in knowing more about these attractive, usually fragrant shrubs will discover here the diversity to be found in the species and will learn about recent trends in cultivation, selection, and hybridization.
"Towe's species descriptions -- a subject that can be quite confusing -- are the most straightforward and most complete that I have seen in any book." --American Gardener
For more than 25 years L. Clarence Towe has observed American azaleas in their native habitats. He is eminently qualified to introduce American azaleas into gardens, and in 2005, he was presented the Azalea Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society's highest award, the Bronze Medal, in recognition of his years of outstanding effort on behalf of the chapter and the society.
Native Plants of the Southeast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden, by Larry Mellichamp. 367 pages. Publisher:Timber Press (January 28, 2014)
Using native plants in a garden has many benefits. They attract beneficial wildlife and insects, they allow a gardener to create a garden that reflects the native beauty of the region, and they make a garden more sustainable. Because of all this, they are an increasingly popular plant choice for home and public gardens.
Native Plants of the Southeast shows you how to choose the best native plants and how to use them in the garden. This complete guide is an invaluable resource, with plant profiles for over 460 species of trees, shrubs, vines, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers. Each plant description includes information about cultivation and propagation, ranges, and hardiness. Comprehensive lists recommend particular plants for difficult situations, as well as plants for attracting butterflies, hummingbirds, and other wildlife.
State Birds & Flowers 1000-pc Puzzle: Created at the request of The National Wildlife Federation this design is a beautiful and informative puzzle featuring every state bird perched on the appropriate state flower.
State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book by Annika Bernhard - 51 accurately detailed, copyright-free renderings include national bird (eagle) and flower (rose) plus 50 state birds and flowers.
U. S. State Flowers in Cross Stitch by Gerda Bengtsson - Botanically correct cross stitch designs of state flowers of the 50 States.
Quilting Flowers of the States by Sue Harvey - A lovely 12-inch flower block for each of the 50 states. Techniques used are piecing, appliqué, paper-piecing and three-dimensional techniques.
Name Your Link: Shop for seeds, gardening tools, fertilizer, composting bins, sprinklers, and pots and planters