Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Rhododendron maximum

Great laurel, Wild rhododendron, Rosebay rhododendron, White laurel, Rosebay

Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Rhododendron maximum (Great laurel)
Cressler, Alan
Evergreen, thicket-forming shrub or tree with short, crooked trunk, broad, rounded crown of many stout, crooked branches, and large white blossoms. Great-laurel or rosebay rhododendron is a loose, open, broadleaf evergreen with multiple-trunks, upright branching, and the largest leaves of all native rhododendrons. The plant grows 4-15 ft. in the north, but can grow 30 ft. high in favorable sites. Its foliage is dark blue-green and leathery. Large, bell-shaped, white to purplish-pink, spotted flowers appear in terminal clusters of 16-24.

Rosebay Rhododendron is abundant in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Often grown as an ornamental, it is one of the hardiest and largest evergreen rhododendrons. The wood is occasionally used for tool handles, and a home remedy has been prepared from the leaves.

Image Gallery:

19 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf: Dark Green
Fruit: Brown
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink
Bloom Time: Jun


USA: AL , CT , GA , KY , ME , MD , MA , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VT , VA , WV , DC
Canada: NS
Native Distribution: W. ME to NY & OH, s., especially in the mts., s. to n. GA
Native Habitat: Moist, dense woods; steep stream banks; mountain slopes

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Cool, moist, well-drained soil.


Warning: Rhododendrons contain poisonous substances and should not be ingested by humans or animals. Honey made from flowers also may be toxic. POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Highly Toxic, May be Fatal if eaten. Symptoms include salivation, watering of eyes and nose, abdominal pain, loss of energy, depression, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, difficult breathing, progressive paralysis of arms and legs, coma. Toxic Principle: Andromedotoxin. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds

Last Update: 2014-07-18