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Mountain Rosebay Rhododendron catawbiense

Phonetic Spelling
rho-doh-DEN-dron kah-taw-bee-EN-say
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Catawba Rhododendron, is a large broadleaf evergreen, rounded to spreading, multi-stemmed shrub that often form dense thickets in the blueberry family.  It is native to the woodland slopes and ridges in the eastern U.S. along the Appalachian Mountain range, spedically in the Catawba region in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It typically grows from 6-10’ feet tall sometimes reaching heights of up to 20’ feet becoming sparse and rangy when grown in unfavorable conditions.  Its large flower buds appear before flowering and burst forth with showy pink to light purple flowers in the late spring to early summer. The bark is gray-brown and becomes scaly as it matures.  It is often used as a handsome, leathery, broadleaf evergreen, as a specimen plant, in mass planting, or occasionally in hedges. 

Plant this shrub in the partial shade in acidic, rich, well-drained but moist soils, adding acidifying amendments if your soil test indicates it.  If your soil is neutral or alkaline, additional applications of acidfiers annually will likely be necessary.  The root system is shallow to annual mulching will help retain moisture and keep soil temperatures even.  It is important not to let the soil dry out completely or this will damage the roots.  While it handles morning sun does need protection from harsh afternoon rays and wind.  It does tolerate almost full shade conditions. Being from the mountain regions, it prefers cooler temperatures in the summer.

The genus name Rhododendron derives from the Greek words rhodo which means rose and dendron meaning tree. 
 

Fire Risk: This plant has a high flammability rating and should not be planted within the defensible space of your home. Select plants with a low flammability rating for the sites nearest your home. 

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 scorch the leaves and the roots rot if the soil does not drain well.  This plant is frequently damaged by deer.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Long, leathery leaves, in tiers, congested at branch tips
  • Large,5-lobed bell-shaped flowers with maculations
  • Terminal clusters of flowers in a raceme
  • Evergreen shrub, tiered, sympodial growth
  • Juvenile twigs yellowish

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

More information on Rhododendron.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Boursault', 'Purpureum Elegans', 'Roseum Elegans'
Tags:
#hummingbirds#evergreen#deciduous#poisonous#wildlife plant#showy#moths#nectar plant#native shrub#native bees#woody#cover plant#winter interest#specialized bees#cpp#fire#high flammability#NC native#thickets#pollinator plant#fantz#leathery leaves#larval host plant#food source summer#cover#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#nectar plant late spring#mammals#butterfly friendly#nectar plant early summer#nectar plant mid-spring#butterfly larvae#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#problem for cats#pollinator garden#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Boursault', 'Purpureum Elegans', 'Roseum Elegans'
Tags:
#hummingbirds#evergreen#deciduous#poisonous#wildlife plant#showy#moths#nectar plant#native shrub#native bees#woody#cover plant#winter interest#specialized bees#cpp#fire#high flammability#NC native#thickets#pollinator plant#fantz#leathery leaves#larval host plant#food source summer#cover#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#nectar plant late spring#mammals#butterfly friendly#nectar plant early summer#nectar plant mid-spring#butterfly larvae#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#problem for cats#pollinator garden#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Rhododendron
    Species:
    catawbiense
    Family:
    Ericaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Appalachian mountains
    Distribution:
    Southern Appalachian mountains, from Virginia through Georgia
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    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.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 8 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Multi-stemmed
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Dry seed capsules 1/2"-1” long mature in fall and have 5 valves. Displays from July to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Flower Description:
    Funnelform-campanulate lavender-pink flowers that have green to yellow-brown throat markings. The flowers bloom mid to late spring in compact showy terminal clusters (racemes), each containing 15-20 flowers. Upper corolla lobes are near throat with faint green or yellow-brown maculation. Calyx has 5 lobes. Flowers bloom from April to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Large, leathery, simple, alternate, coriaceous, broadly elliptic to oblong, obtuse and mucronulate, rotund, entire, glossy, dark green leaves (to 3-6” long) with smooth or toothed margins. It may develop yellow-green winter color. Undersides of leaves are light green and the leaves are glabrous when they mature.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Scaly
    Bark Description:
    Gray-brown bark; develops fine scales with age
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are yellowish green and mature to brown. They are glabrous and have sympodial growth. Buds of flowers are large and acute and have yellowish-green scales.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Houseplants
    Naturalized Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Specialized Bees
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    Salivation, watering of eyes and nose, abdominal pain, loss of energy, depression, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure, difficult breathing, progressive paralysis of arms and legs, coma.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Andromedotoxin, Grayantoxin
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Seeds
    Stems