Admiral Semmes Azaleas & Butterflies

The first of the deciduous azaleas to bloom in our woodland garden is Admiral Semmes. This hybrid is one from the confederate series of native azaleas, a cross between Rhodedendron austrinium and Rhodedendron x 'Hotspur Yellow'. This cross was created at a nursery in Semmes, Alabama to tolerate the heat and humidity that the Exbury azaleas couldn't.

Admiral Semmes was the skipper of the CSS Alabama and holds the record number of enemy ships sunk or captured.

Admiral Semmes is the easiest to grow of all the azaleas in the series and has performed exceptionally well in our dry, woodland garden.  So much so, that we planted seven of them in our shade gardens. They have benefited from years of leaf mulch that has created a nice humus rich soil. We fertilize them once a year with Espoma Holly-tone for Azaleas.  

hybrid azaleas appreciate the shade of the tree canopy during the summer months

These shrubs can be used as a specimen or grouped in a woodland setting. They will grow about 5 feet wide and tall and bloom in early spring before the tree canopy leafs out.

The golden yellow, tubular flowers support numerous pollinators including ruby throated hummingbirds, butterflies, long-tongued bees and pollinating flies. 

cloudless slulphur butterfly in flight

I was surprised to see this cloudless sulphur butterfly this early. These butterflies typically appear in numbers in fall. They commonly overwinter in Flordia; however, it is not unheard of for them to overwinter in N. Georgia. They overwinter as adults and are cold hardier than most butterflies. 

The cloudless sulphur was well camoflauged when I photographed the flowers, its lemmon yellow wings blending in with the bright yellow petals. It wasn't until it began fluttering around that I noticed it. 

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly on Admiral Semmes native azalea

Spicebush Swallowtails are a large buttefly we normally see later in the summer. It was a pleasant surprise to see them enjoying Admiral Semmes. 

We are seeing numerous Tiger Swallowtails this spring too. All this insect activity is a reminder how important it is to offer a buffet of native plants that provide nectar and pollen for these beauties from early spring to late fall.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

It is easy to see how these native azaleas get their common name honeysuckle azalea (aka wild azaleas). The fragrant flowers are irresistable to both pollinators and gardeners.


  1. We don't see azaleas around here as our soil is simply too alkaline - it's lovely. And you have such an eagle eye - great catch spotting the cloudless sulphur!

    1. What a pity, they are really great woodland shrubs. They do thrive in our acidic soil but one definitely has to stay with regionally appropriate plants.

  2. The yellow azaleas are beautiful. Great shots of the butterflies, also!

    1. Thanks Jason! I hve been having fun photographing them as they flutter around our garden.

  3. Very special! I don't have any Azaleas, but my mom had several over the years. I really do enjoy them. They are so very impressive and large and floriferous in your part of the country--seeing them during our trip down there in 2018 was a highlight.


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