|R. catawbiense growing wild on Mount Mitchell, North Carolina|
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.
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 uses
Rhododendron catawbiense is cultivated as an ornamental plant, popular both in North America and in Europe. It is primarily grown for its spring flower display. Outside of its native range, it has naturalized locally north to Massachusetts. Many cultivars have been selected. 
It is very closely related to (and very difficult to distinguish from) the European species Rhododendron ponticum, and it 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.  The presence of this hybrid was only determined by genetic analysis.
- R. catawbiense cultivars . accessed 1.31.2013
- (Milne & Abbott 2000)
- GRIN—Germplasm Resources Information Network: Rhododendron catawbiense
- Milne, R. I., & Abbott, R. J. (2000). Origin and evolution of invasive naturalized material of Rhododendron ponticum L. in the British Isles. Molecular Ecology 9: 541-556 Abstract.
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