Save the historic azalea collection at the US National Arboretum
Now threatened with destruction becuase of funding shortfalls, Admirers come to the U.S. National Arboretum’s Azalea Collection every spring to witness one of Washington’s premier spring attractions. Thousands of azaleas cover the flanks of Mount Hamilton in a blaze of color. The first warm days bring out the flowers, and the slopes take on a surreal, almost luminescent glow. Few shrubs have more impact on the spring landscape–azaleas are an enduring favorite in gardens throughout the country.
Many of the shrubs in the collection sprang from the azalea breeding work of former Arboretum Director Benjamin Y. Morrison. The plants on the south slopes of Mount Hamilton in the area known as the Glenn Dale Hillside are the products of this work. Morrison envisioned the modern hybrid azalea as we know it today and successfully married the large flowers and exciting colors of tender azaleas in the Indica group with the hardiness of more northerly species. Morrison did the hybridization work in the years between 1929 and 1954. During this time, he first served as Chief of Plant Exploration and Introduction at the Glenn Dale Plant Introduction Station and later became the first Acting Director of the U.S. National Arboretum. The Glenn Dale Hillside was planted with 10,000 unnamed Glenn Dale hybrids from 1946 to 1948. Morrison went on to eventually introduce 454 cultivars of Glenn Dale azaleas.
1. The Azalea collection is important to the people of the United States
2. The contributions of the Glen Dale Azaleas are of an irreplaceable historic nature
3. Congress needs to fund the mission of USDA ARS and the Arboretum adequately