Mountain Azaleas

Last Sunday (April 11) my family and I went for a hike in the Minoh Quasi National Park. These are the hills located just beyond the city of Minoh and I often walk, run and bike through them. They can reach elevations of up to 600 meters. On this particular Sunday afternoon, bright purple bushes could be seen scattered through the understory of the forest. The small tree/large shrubs were Mountain Azaleas, or in Japanese, Yama (mountain) Tsutsuji (Azalea). I knew of Azaleas from the southeastern United States, as they are a famous garden plant and always mentioned at the professional golf championship, the Masters.

Azaleas are members of the Ericaceae family, also known as the Heath family and its members live in acidic or poor soil conditions. Common members are the cranberry and blueberry. Azaleas are members of the Rhododendron genus and there are over 1,000 different species. They reach their highest diversity in Asia, including Japan. As you can see in the photo below, they prefer to live in shade. We probably saw between 25-50 of them on our walk, scattered under the large cedars and other trees. Many were on steep, sloping ground.

This species had an unusual whorled three-leaf pattern as seen below. If anyone can tell me the exact species of this bush, I would appreciate it.

The change of seasons makes forests walks at different times of the year. I am liking the Minoh park more and more as I explore different trails and areas within the park. I am still in awe of the change of seasons and am swept up in the exuberance of spring.

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