This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Purplish pink, rose, or nearly white, 1 1/2 in. broad or less, in clusters on short, stiff, hairy pedicels, and usually appearing before the leaves, from scaly, terminal buds. Calyx minute; corolla 2-lipped, upper lip unequally 2-3 lobed; lower lip 2-cleft; 10 stamens; 1 pistil, the style slightly protruding. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, shrubby, branching. Leaves: Deciduous, oval to oblong, dark green above, pale and hairy beneath.
Preferred Habitat - Wet hillsides, damp woods, beside sluggish streams, cool bogs.
Flowering Season - May.
Distribution - Newfoundland to Pennsylvania mountains.
A superficial glance at this low, little, thin shrub might mistake it for a magenta variety of the leafless Pinxter-flower. It does its best to console the New Englanders for the scarcity of the magnificent rhododendron, with which it was formerly classed. The Sage of Concord, who became so enamored of it that Massachusetts people often speak of it as "Emerson's flower," extols its loveliness in a sonnet:
"Rhodora! If the sages ask thee why This charm is wasted on the earth and sky, Tell them, dear, if eyes were made for seeing, Then Beauty is its own excuse for being."