It is a native azalea found on the bank of a creek. I first noticed it blooming on April 5. At first I thought it was a Piedmont Azalea, but then I learned about the Pinxterbloom azalea. I don’t know how to distinguish between the two. I have attached 1 photo of the flower which is more lavender than the pink I read about when I do a search. The bush was tall and leggy, maybe 10′. For comparison, I have also attached 2 photos of a lighter pink azalea from my back yard. It was blooming well by April 4. I purchased both a Piedmont and a Pinxterbloom back in 2009, but only one has survived – I don’t know which. The plant is smaller – maybe 3-3.5′ high.
thanks for sending several pictures. All of these are the Pinksterbloom azalea, Rhododendron periclymenoides. There is considerable variation in the color of these wild azaleas which contribute to their charm, though all are some degree of pink, from dark rose pink to pale, almost white. Other similar wild azaleas have pure white flowers, and still others are shades or orange to red, but not the pinksterbloom. The piedmont azalea flowers, Rhododendron canescens, can have a pale pink tint, but the underside of its leaves are ‘canescent’ or short hairy. The pinksterbloom azalea leaves are normally not hairy beneath. I can not be positive about your own wild azalea without seeing those leaves, but I think it is the pinksterbloom azalea.
Dr. Steven Hill, Botanist, SCNPS