Today's “Plant of the Day” is Rhododendron catawbiense Michx.; a Rhododendron from the Eriaceae family. With over 1.000 known species, the Genus Rhododendron is very, very species rich. In German and English, this plant is known as “Catawba-Rhododendron”, what is the literally translation of the scientific name (the Catwaba are a tribe of native Americans). However, in English, the plant is also known as “Purple-Laurel” and “mountain rose bay”.
R. catawbiense - habitus
It's a medium high, evergreen shrub, which can reach a maximum height of 7 metres (20 feet) but the average height is normally between 2 and 3 metres (6 to 10 feet).
The dark-green leaves are elliptical shaped with a simple margin. They have a long petiole and follow the alternative leaf-pattern. Their surface is leathery.
The bark is grey.
R. catawbiense - flowers
The inflorescences are umbel-shaped racemes with five to ten large, radial flowers. Each flower has five, green and narrow sepals and five petals. These petals are purple to magenta and have some speckles on the inside. The stamens (two circles with five stamens per circle) are also magenta, while the stylus has a dark-purple colour. Flowering time is normally in May and the ripe fruit is a capsule.
R. catawbiense - leaf
R. catawbiense is native to North America; more specifically in the southern regions of the Appalachian mountains (e. g. the states of Virginia and Georgia). It prefers, sunny to shady places and fresh to moist soils. But it hates dryness and heat.
R. catawbiense -an inflorescence right before flowering
As evergreen shrub with large, beautiful flowers, R. catawbiense is also a very popular ornamental plant for parks and gardens. In fact, this applies to many species from the Genus Rhododendron. So, there are many sorts and hybrids of Rhododendrons, what makes an exact determination very difficult because these sorts differ in many characters from the wild forms (e. g. the colour of the flowers, the shape of the leaves and so on).
R. catawbiense -a sort with rose flowers