Taking Inventory: Azalea

Is it a bush? Is it a tree?

As you’re exploring the new landscapes of part two of the Caves and Cliffs update, you might want to locate one of the fancy new lush caves biomes. From the surface, it’s usually impossible to tell what’s going on underneath. But there’s a secret giveaway that indicates the presence of one of these fantastic, verdant cave biomes below. And it also happens to be our item of the week. It’s the azalea.

Azalea were added to Minecraft in the first part of the Caves & Cliffs update, in June 2021. They’re a curious mix between a flower and a sapling, in that they look pretty and provide pollen for bees while still being able to be grown into a much larger tree if you desire. 

But let’s start at the beginning – finding them. Azalea bushes grow exclusively on top of moss blocks in the lush caves biome – but on the surface above those biomes you’ll find fully-grown azalea trees. This makes it very easy to locate one – just wander around until you see azalea trees, and start digging. 

But hold on a second, you say. The second part of the Caves and Cliffs update isn’t out when you’re reading this. That is true, and unfortunate. It means that if you want to experience one, for the time being you’ll need to use the “buffet” option in the custom world menu. We’re working as hard as we can to get the full update out, so sit tight for now.

Okay, let’s say you’re in the future and you’ve got yourself an Azalea bush. What do you do with it? Well, they’re mostly there to look nice or to be grown into azalea trees. They’re the only sapling that won’t grow automatically – but if you bonemeal them then they’ll spring right up into a tree. The bushes also allow bees to harvest pollen to make honey. And if for some reason you hate azalea bushes, or end up with too many of them, then you can compost them or burn them in a furnace for fuel.

In the real world, Azaleas are a type of Rhododendron which bloom in the springtime. They’re native to Asia, Europe and North America, and like living under trees in acidic soil. They also grow rather slowly. It’s not uncommon to see azaleas bushes that are decades old.

Azaleas are highly toxic to humans, so they’re not used in cuisine or medicine. But their beautiful flowers mean that they’ve been popular as ornamental plants for centuries. Humans are so fond of them, in fact, that we’ve selectively bred more than 10,000 different varieties. 

In Chinese culture, the azalea is known as the “thinking of home bush”, and features heavily in the work of Du Fu, one of China’s greatest poets. It’s also particularly popular in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, and many US cities also celebrate the blooming of the azalea during the spring.

So next time you come across a grove of azalea on the surface in Minecraft, ready your shovel and start digging. You might uncover something rather special. 

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere