Great Rhododendron

Rhododendron maximum

Great Rhododendron in bloom

Great rhododendron, also known as rosebay rhododendron, is an evergreen shrub or small tree that grows in thickets throughout most of the Appalachian range. Identifiable by its shiny, leathery leaves and crooked trunks and branches, great rhododendron’s showy white and pink flowers appear in the summer and are important food sources for hummingbirds and bees. Unfortunately, all parts of this plant are poisonous if eaten; even honey made from rhododendron flowers is poisonous. The wood from the tree is typically too small and twisted for use, though pioneers would occasionally make tool handles from it. Rhododendron leaves curl into a tube in cold air to retain moisture and prevent damage. Though it isn’t a food or medicine source for humans, great rhododendron serves as year-round shelter for wildlife such as bears, deer, and birds.

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