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Genus Rhododendron 

by John and Sally Perkins


Rhododendron prinophyllum var. album
Picture by S & J Perkins
Rhododendron prinophyllum var. album in Salem, NH


Rhododendrons as members of the Heath (Ericaceae) family thrive in the acid-soil of New England. In fact, several species of rhododendron are native to the region such as

The genus Rhododendron can be divided into four major subgenera.

  • large leaf or elepidotes (without scales), 
  • small leaf or lepidotes (with scales), 
  • evergreen azaleas, 
  • deciduous azaleas. 

Species from 3 of these 4 major subgenera are represented in New England. There are no evergreen azaleas native to New England. In fact, there are no evergreen azaleas native to North America.

Additional Rhododendron species native to North America include the following:

Some species such as Rhododendron camtschaticum and Rhododendron albiflorum do not fit into any of these four major subgenera. Some refer to these minor subgenera as the "cats and dogs" of the Rhododendron genus. There are no "cats or dogs" native to New England.

Distinguishing between species requires close examination of the leaves and the flowers.


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