Rhododendron catawbiense
R. catawbiense growing wild on Mount Mitchell, North Carolina
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Unranked: Angiosperms
Unranked: Eudicots
Unranked: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Rhododendron
Subgenus: Hymenanthes
Species: R. catawbiense
Binomial name
Rhododendron catawbiense

Rhododendron catawbiense (Catawba Rhododendron) is a species of Rhododendron native to the eastern United States, growing mainly in the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia south to northern Alabama.

It is a dense, suckering shrub growing to 3 m tall, rarely 5 m. The leaves are evergreen, 6-12 cm long and 2-4 cm broad. The flowers are 3-4.5 cm diameter, violet-purple, often with small spots or streaks. The fruit is a dry capsule 15-20 mm long, containing numerous small seeds.

The species is named after the Catawba tribe of Native Americans.


R. catawbiense belongs to the Subgenus Hymenanthes, within which it is further assigned to Section Ponticum and Subsection Pontica. The latter — one of the 24 subsections of Ponticum — also contains about a dozen other species.

Cultivation and usesEdit

It is a popular ornamental plant, both in North America and also in Europe, grown for its spring flower display. Outside of its native range, it is naturalized locally north to Massachusetts.

It is very closely related to (and very difficult to distinguish from) the European species Rhododendron ponticum, and hybridizes readily with it in cultivation; the hybrid is invasive in parts of northeastern Scotland in areas too cold for typical R. ponticum to thrive (Milne & Abbott 2000); the presence of this hybrid was only determined by genetic analysis.


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