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2019 Woody Plant Introduction Announced

A new woody plant selection was introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the North Dakota State University Research Foundation. Fireflare Orange™ Mollis Azalea is a great winter hardy addition to the northern landscape. The selection has been in development by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program for over 40 years.
2019 Woody Plant Introduction Announced

Fireflare Orange(TM) Mollis Azalea

January 16, 2019

A new woody plant selection, Fireflare Orange™ Mollis Azalea (Rhododendron x kosteranum ‘FireDak’), was introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the North Dakota State University Research Foundation. The selection has been in development by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program for over 40 years. Retired program leader Dr. Dale Herman collected the germplasm for the selection and began plant evaluations for cold hardiness and soil adaptability. Current project leader Dr. Todd West and research specialist Greg Morgenson continued the plant evaluation and prepared the selection for release.

Fireflare Orange™ is a compact shrub, which grows to a size of 4’ x 5’. It has lavishly brilliant fire-orange spring flower clusters with 3-7 florets per bud. It also has very nice yellow-orange to reddish-purple fall leaf coloration.

This selection prefers full sun to part shade. It is pH tolerant with no exhibition of chlorosis symptoms typical of other cultivars of this species.

This deciduous azalea is a great winter hardy addition to the northern landscape.

About the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program

The NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program has been serving the Northern Great Plains for over 60 years, beginning germplasm trial evaluations in 1954. In 1974, NDSU purchased an 80-acre farm near Absaraka, ND, to be established as the NDSU Horticulture Research Farm and began trial plantings that fall. This research farm provides ideal horticultural soil for evaluation and breeding projects for North Dakota. Approximately 45 acres of this farm is used for evaluation, selection and breeding of woody ornamental plants.

The main portion of the research farm is the center 35-acre plot known as the Dale E. Herman Research Arboretum. Named after NDSU Professor Emeritus Dale E. Herman, who developed the program for nearly 40 years, the research arboretum is the most extensive collection of woody ornamental plants in North Dakota and the northern Great Plains. It is a valuable resource for teaching, research and educational use.

NDSU woody plant introductions are currently being propagated for sale by commercial wholesale firms in four countries: Australia, Canada, England, and the United States (14 states, including 35 nurseries). This project has introduced 58 superior woody plants for production and sale with increased disease tolerance and winter hardiness for landscapes. The first introduction from the program (1986) was a flower bud hardy Forsythia hybrid, ‘Meadowlark’. This was a collaborative release with South Dakota State University, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and the USDA North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station.

In 2012, several breeding programs were initiated focusing on magnolia, lilac, maple hybridizing and mutagenic breeding of several shrub species. The NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program also serves as the northern site for the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S), launched in spring 2014.

The goals of the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program are selection, evaluation and introduction of hardy superior woody plants for the landscape industry. For more information about the program, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/plantsciences/research/woody-plants/.

Source: Todd West, 701-231-6476,
Editor: Kamie Beeson, 701-231-7123,

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