Source: The Rhododendron page, and some research.
Azaleas are flowering shrubs making up part of the genus Rhododendron. Originally azaleas were classed as a different genus of plant, but now they are recognised as two of the eight sub-genera of rhododendrons - subgenus Pentanthera (deciduous), and subgenus Titsushi (evergreen).
One of the major differences between azaleas and the rest of the rhododendron family is their size. Another is their flower growth. Rhododendrons grow their flowers in stripers, while most azaleas have terminal blooms (one flower per flower stem). However, they have so many stems that during the flowering season they are a solid mass of colour. Azaleas are recognised by these flowers blooming all at once, in a showy display for a month or two in spring. The exception to this rule is a small group of azaleas which grow their flowers in tight terminal clusters.
The Satsuki azalea group, derived from Rhododendron indicum and related species, are very popular.
Plant enthusiasts have created azaleas for hundreds of years. This human genetic modification has produced over 10,000 different cultivars which are propagated by cuttings. Azalea seeds can also be collected and germinated.
Several commercial nurseries in Semmes, Alabama, a suburb of Mobile, are major national suppliers of azaleas in the U.S.
Many cities in the United States have festivals in the spring celebrating the blooms of the azalea, including Wilmington, North Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia, Valdosta, Georgia Palatka, Florida Pickens, South Carolina Muskogee, Oklahoma South Gate, California and Mobile, Alabama.
Motoyama, Kochi also has a flower festival in which the blooming of Tsutsushi is celebrated.
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