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Rhododendron Maximum in Western NY

Posted by HuronPalm 5b/6a SE MI (My Page) on
Sat, Dec 28, 13 at 16:02

Was not sure where to post this, here or on the natives forum, but I figured that everyone here is ericaceous enough to chime in.

Does anyone know where to find some decent gatherings of Rhododendron Maximum (Rosebay) in western NY? Most range maps supposedly claim that they can be found well into Erie county. I know that there is a ton of dolomitic limestone up that way, but I imagine that the surface soil is often as acidic as most places in the Appalachian hinterlands. I am curious if anyone has seen them in NE OH or near Erie either, but I lived in Buffalo for a while and got all excited when I heard about wild Maximum being around the corner. I ask because not only I would love to see some, but also because any seed gathered from these fellows would be helpful in starting a few friends back here in Michigan.

A second question, then, would be if anyone could recommend a mail order nursery for Maximum or other wild types like Catawbiense (the species, not Album or Borsault or any other hybrid/selectivar). Half the websites which a search turns up sends me to a wholesale place or some site that has been down for a while now.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Rhododendron Maximum in Western NY

I can be no help with the first question, but for the second, Rarefind Nursery usually lists some varieties of r. maximum. If it makes a difference, the various cultivars of r. catawbiense such as Boursalt, Catalga, album are selections. They are as much the "species" as any other form. Since r. catawbiense as been extensively used for hybridization since the mid 1800's it is possible that some other genetic material has crept into what is today sold as Boursalt, but it and the others above should be pure catawbiense even though they do not have the completely purple bloom most commonly encounteredin the wild.

RE: Rhododendron Maximum in Western NY

Gardens of the Blue Ridge ( sells Rhododendron maximum - I have bought some from them, and all have done very well. They are planted in clay loam amended with pine bark and a little peat. I don't know how well this Southern source would perform in New York.

Many people don't care for Rosebay because of its huge size and its smallish flowers (by comparison to some rhodies), but I really like them for the foliage effect. They seem to take less-than-ideal conditions quite well.

RE: Rhododendron Maximum in Western NY

I happen to find their foliage traits to be among the many fine reasons to plant them! More of my thoughts on the plant can be found here:

I would imagine that they flower a bit more given a bit of sun, and I have seen them growing in pretty much any kind of soil imaginable, as long as it was on the acidic side. Thanks for the nursery reference, Bob. I also managed to find Reeseville Ridge nursery out in Wisconsin, but Blue Ridge seems to be easier to order from.

Don't get me wrong, I love the variety of cultivars which we have so far been able to grow, but nothing beats the original palette sometimes.

RE: Rhododendron Maximum in Western NY

Not NY or OH or MI, but in Fitzwilliam, NH, there's state park called Rhododendron State Park if you are ever this way. I recall going there in late June or early July and wandering along paths through R. maximum thickets, much higher than my head and filled with pale pink to white blossoms. Quite lovely.

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