Conecuh County, Alabama.
Photo by Ron Miller.
Today Dr. Alvin Diamond at Troy University shared with me a reprint from the current issue of the Journal of the American Rhododendron Society with a paper by W. Zhou, T. Gibbons, L. Goetsch, B. Hall, T. Ranney, and R. Miller describing a new deciduous azalea, Rhododendron colemanii, from the Coastal Plain of Alabama and Georgia. As many years as I've been fooling with Red Hills salamanders (Phaeognathus hubrichti) in the steep ravines of Monroe and Conecuh counties in Alabama, I'm pretty sure I've seen this gorgeous May-flowering species, but like others I probably mistook it for the more widespread (but April-flowering) R. alabamense. Alvin recognized its uniqueness some time back, and was very instrumental in the authors' verifying this exciting find. The Red Hills region of Alabama is poorly known biologically, yet it is geologically unique and supports species found no place else. The Red Hills salamander was described in 1961 as the sole member of its genus, and now 37 years later this new rhododendron is documented from the exact same habitat. I'm told the disjunct Red Hills population of what we've been calling the seal salamander (Desmognathus monticola) is almost certainly distinct from D. monticola, and that's being investigated. Makes you wonder what else is out there under our noses.