The Genus Name of Catawbiense & Azalea
- All azaleas are rhododendrons, but not all rhododendrons are azaleas. Some taxonomists list subgenera under the main Rhododendron genus umbrella. The Azalea Society of America, for example, lists that deciduous azaleas are grouped into the subgenus Pentanthera, while evergreen types are in subgenus Tsutsusi. Some taxonomists further segregate the plants into sections.
Differences Between Rhododendrons and Azaleas
- While all the plants are botanically Rhododendron, gardeners still use common names to distinguish the plants as either a rhododendron or an azalea. The difference between the two may be fuzzy at times. Typically, any plant that produces flowers with 10 stamens is known colloquially as a rhododendron, whereas flowers with only five or six stamens occur on plants known as azaleas. Azaleas also tend to have smaller, thinner leaves with tiny hairs, but not always.
- The Catawba rhododendron grows naturally in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern United States. It grows 6 to 10 feet tall and equally wide with large, leathery, oblong glossy green leaves that remain evergreen in winter. According to Michael Dirr, an American woody plant expert, the Catawba rhododendron is among the easiest rhododendrons to grow in nearly any garden setting. It produces lilac-pink flowers in late spring or early summer.
- Any cultivar hybrid derived from the Catawba rhododendron is often placed in the Catawbiense group. This group designation helps distinguish the various mutations or bred selections with similar growing requirements but different flower colors. Cultivars in the group include Catawbiense Grandiflorum, Catawbiense Boursault, Catawbiense Album, Everestianum, Everett Weber, Lord Roberts, Roseum Elegans, Purpureum Elegans, Sappho and The Elegant Jean Marie De Montague.