by John and Sally Perkins
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.
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.