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Springtime Azaleas and Rhododendrons

On a cool spring morning last Wednesday, 19 members of the Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group met at the Exedra. The group was pleased to welcome first time walker Renee' Gold. hammer, who learned about the walkers from Bob Gustafson.

Influencing the decision of what which streets to walk was abundance of spring flowers. Daffodils, tulips, and cherry tree blossoms had been the focus of earlier walks, and now it was time for azaleas and rhododendrons. Both azaleas and rhododendrons belong to the genus rhododendron. The traditional way of telling the difference between rhododendrons and azaleas is to count their stamen while the flowers are in bloom. Flowers with 10 stamens are rhododendrons. Azaleas, which bloom earlier and are smaller in size, have five stamen. Rhododendron foliage is long, thick and leathery, while azaleas are thinner, smaller, and more pliable.

While there were beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom throughout Piedmont, walkers were told to look at the flowers on LaSalle Avenue between Crocker and Sea View Avenue.

As the walkers walked along Highland Avenue on the perimeter of Piedmont Park, Alicia Rivera wanted the group to go on Guilford Road to see small yellow flowers covering covered the hillside near the Park tennis courts and Piedmont Community Hall. Alicia recalled growing up a buttercup was often held under a young child's chin, and if there was a "reflection," the child was told that she or he "liked butter."

The walkers then went on Sheridan to Wildwood Avenue, where they viewed some beautiful gardens. They walked on Hall Fenway and entered Crocker Park. also known to locals as "Bear Park." On view were many large, colorful rhododendrons and the famous Benny Bufano statue of a mother bear and her two cubs, Piedmont's only public art. Bufano, an Italian-American sculptor in San Francisco was best known for his large-scale monuments that often featured smoothly rounded animals and relatively simple shapes. A similar Bufano statue is at the Oakland Museum of California.

The group continued on King Avenue to LaSalle Avenue to see some stunning large, brightly colored rhododendrons. Then they were off on the long walk on Sea View from Hampton Road to Mountain Avenue, where Sea View ends.

Stories were told about the history of many of the famous, historical homes on Sea View


The Walking on Wednesday group has set a goal of walking all of Piedmont's streets during

the coming year, and all of its 21 pedestrian paths. Near the end of Mountain Avenue, they found a

footpath that connects Mountain with Sierra Avenue. From there it was only a block and a half to the Exedra.

The May 8 walk had been a little over two miles during which the walkers gained a better understanding of azaleas and rhododendrons.


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