Rhododendron maximum — its common names include great laurel, great rhododendron, rosebay rhododendron, American rhododendron and big rhododendron — is a species of Rhododendron native to the Appalachians of eastern North America, from Alabama north to coastal Nova Scotia.
Rhododendron maximum, commonly called rosebay rhododendron or great laurel, is a large, upright, loose, multi-stemmed, late-blooming, evergreen shrub that is native to North America from Ontario and Nova Scotia south to Ohio, Alabama and Georgia with a concentration of plants in the southern Appalachian Mountains where it typically grows in dense thickets which dominate the understory in some locations. It typically grows to 5-15’ tall, but infrequently to 30-40’ tall in the heart of its native habitat. Large, leathery, strap-like, evergreen leaves (typically to 4-8” long) have undersides with a hint of rusty orange. Flowers (to 2” across) are rose-purplish to pink to white, often with olive green to orange spots. Flowers bloom in umbel-like inflorescences from June to early July. Fruit is an oblong seed capsule which splits open when ripe to release numerous seed.
Genus name comes from the Greek words rhodo meaning rose and dendron meaning tree. Transferred from the Greek name for Nerium oleander.