General Description / Cultural Significance
Azaleas, a prized symbol of spring and renewal, are grown all over Belgium and bloom from late spring to early summer, filling the air with a light, sweet, and spicy scent. These delightful and attractive plants are grown for both the beauty of their foliage and flower blossoms, and especially their fragrance, which brings great pleasure to Belgians in the spring as they brighten the country with a vast range of colors. Belgian Hybrids of the plant are upright, bushy, deciduous shrubs with mid-green leaves and funnel-shaped flowers that are colored pink or light purple. Hybrid species have been bred to be colorful and hardy plants. Belgians also use azaleas as houseplants to cheer up their homes and gardens.
Climate Change/Conservation Status
In July of 2019, Belgium, like much of western Europe, suffered through the worst heatwave the region had ever experienced. Belgian authorities required most all outdoor workers to go home. On July 24th, Belgium’s temperature surpassed its record high, reaching 102°F.
Although at this time in Belgium there isn’t evidence that azaleas, and all plants of the Rhododendron family, are endangered, the overall threat of heat and climate change looms in the future if action is not taken to curb the effects of global warming, which have been severe so far. Climate change is predicted to have an increasing impact on Belgium’s coastal regions and natural wetlands. Also expected is rising levels of groundwater with increased salinization of the soil. Unfortunately, azaleas have low salt tolerance so this will have detrimental effects on the plants in low areas of the country.
in mid-July 2021 climate change contributed to the length and intensity of extreme weather events of heavy rain and deadly flooding in Belgium. The international Disasters database at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium recorded extreme rainfall and severe flooding created a disaster epicenter around and including the town of Verviers killing approximately 30 with 70 missing.
Belgian Hybrid Azalea
Belgian Indica Azalea