Rhododendron catawbiense, with common names Catawba rosebay, Catawba rhododendron, mountain rosebay, purple ivy, purple laurel, purple rhododendron,red laurel, rosebay, rosebay laurel,is a species of Rhododendron native to the eastern United States, growing mainly in the southern Appalachian Mountains from Virginia south to northern Alabama.
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. Alternate, elliptic to oblong, glossy, dark green leaves (to 3-6” long). Funnel-shaped lavender-pink flowers have green to yellow-brown throat markings. Flowers bloom mid to late spring in compact showy terminal clusters (trusses), each containing 15-20 flowers. Flowers are followed by elongated dry seed capsules (each to 1/2 to 1” long) which mature in fall. Gray-brown bark develops fine scales with age. Provides shelter and nesting sites for birds and wildlife. Flowers are a nectar source for butterflies. This shrub is an important parent of a large number of frost-hardy hybrids.
Genus name comes from the Greek words rhodo meaning rose and dendron meaning tree. Transferred from the Greek name for Nerium oleander.