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Georgia State Wild Flower

Native Azaleas Rhododendron spp. L Adopted: May 7, 2013
Georgia state wild flower
Georgia State Wild Flower: Native Azaleas
Rhododendron canescens

There was a time when Georgia did not have a state flower, much less 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).

A RESOLUTION

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 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. *

Georgia state wild flower
Georgia State Wild Flower: Native Azaleas
Rhododendron calendulaceum

“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.

Georgia state wild flower
Georgia State Wild Flower: Native Azaleas
Rhododendron periclymenoides

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 "native azaleas" the official wild flowers 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 considered native to Georgia.


Sources...

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.


Additional Information

Georgia state wild flower
Georgia State Wild Flower: Native Azaleas
Rhododendron arborescens

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 wildflowers: Complete list of official state wildflowers from NETSTATE.COM

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Georgia state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.