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Rhododendron catawbiense

This plant has poison characteristics. See below.
Common Name(s):
Catawba rhododendron, Mountain rosebay, Purple rhododendron
Categories:
Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Comment:

Rhododendron catawbiense, commonly called Catawba rhododendron or mountain rosebay, is a large, rounded to spreading, multi-stemmed, broadleaf evergreen shrub that typically grows to 6-10’ (rarely to 20’) tall. It is native to the eastern U.S. from Maryland to Kentucky south to Alabama and Georgia, with concentrations in alpine woodlands, rocky slopes and ridges in the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia to Georgia where it often forms dense thickets.  Its gray-brown bark develops fine scales with age. 

This shrub is an important parent of a large number of frost-hardy hybrids.

It will often become leggy when grown in unfavorable conditions.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont   

Seasons:

    Blooms:  Spring        Nut/Fruit/Seed:   Late summer/fall

  

Wildlife Value: This plant is frequently damaged by deer.  It provides winter cover.  Nectar from flowers attracts hummingbirds,butterflies and bees. 

Members of the genus Rhododendron support the following specialized bee: Andrena (Andrena) cornelli.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Rhododendrons are susceptible to insect and disease problems.  Insect problems include aphids, borers, lacebugs, leafhoppers, mealybugs, mites, nematodes, scale, thrips and whitefly.  Diseases include canker, crown rot, root rot, leaf spot, rust, and powdery mildew.  Full sun can scortch the leaves and the roots rot if soil does not drain well.   A healthy plant in the right place with proper maintenance should have few problems. This plant is frequently damaged by deer.

Height:
6-10 ft.
Foliage:
The Catawba Rhododendron has large, leathery, simple, alternate, elliptic to oblong, glossy, dark green leaves (to 3-6” long) with smooth or toothed margins. It may develop yellow-green winter color.
Flower:
The Catawba Rhododendron has funnel-shaped lavender-pink flowers that have green to yellow-brown throat markings. The flowers bloom mid to late spring in compact showy terminal clusters (trusses), each containing 15-20 flowers. The flowers are followed by elongated dry seed capsules (each to 1/2 to 1” long) which mature in fall.
Zones:
4-8
Habit:
Evergreen
Site:
This plant is winter hardy to USDA Zones 4-8 where it is best grown in acidic, humusy, organically rich, evenly moist, moisture-retentive but well-drained soils in part shade. It performs well with some morning sun but needs shady afternoon conditions. It will tolerate close to full shade. Prefers cool summer temperatures. Roots must never be allowed to dry out. Acidify soils prior to planting and thereafter as needed. Plant in locations protected from strong winter winds. Do not site plants within or near the drip line of trees in the walnut family (most rhododendrons are sensitive to toxic juglones produced by roots of walnuts, butternuts, pecans and hickories). Good soil drainage is essential (doesn’t like “wet feet”). Poor drainage inevitably leads to root rot, therefore raised beds/plantings should be considered in areas with heavy clay soils. Shallow, fibrous root systems (do not cultivate around plants) will benefit greatly from a mulch (e.g., wood chips, bark or pine needles) to help retain moisture and stabilize soil temperatures. All parts of this plant are highly toxic if ingested.
Texture:
Medium to coarse
Form:
Dense, wide spreading shrub
Exposure:
Sun to high bright shade; moist, well drained soil
Fruit:
Capsule
Family:
Ericaceae
Origin:
Appalachian mountains
Distribution:
Native to southern Appalachian mountains, from Virginia through Georgia
Poison Part:
All parts.
Poison Delivery Mode:
Ingestion
Symptoms:
Salivation, watering of eyes and nose, abdominal pain, loss of energy, depression, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, difficult breathing, progressive paralysis of arms and legs, coma.
Toxic Principle:
Andromedotoxin
Severity:
HIGHLY TOXIC, MAY BE FATAL IF EATEN!
Found in:
Houseplant or interiorscape; landscape as cultivated woody shrub; forest or natural area.
Width:
8-10 ft.
Tags:
woody, deciduous, bees, nectar, pollinator, specialized bees, hummingbirds, wildlife, showy, winter interest, native bees, evergreen

NCCES plant id: 534

Rhododendron catawbiense Rhododendron catawbiense white flowers
David Winship, CC BY-NC-2.0
Rhododendron catawbiense Rhododendron catawbiense pink flowers
BlueRidgeKitties, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Rhododendron catawbiense Form, in a native setting
lue Ridge Kitties, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0