The Rosebay (Rhododendron maximum) is one of two species of elepidote, or large-leaved rhododendrons native to the Eastern U.S. It is found from Nova Scotia south to Georgia. It is most abundant in the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania through Georgia, where it favors eastern and northern exposures and shady ravines and valleys. Maximum occurs less frequently throughout the New England states.
The large leaves are evergreen. It blooms in late June to early July with flowers of pale pink buds opening to white with yellowish-green blotches. The Rosebay typically grows 8-15' tall but specimens of 30' or more can occur in the wild.
I love coming across a large stand of Rhododendron maximum while out hiking. Often their large, limbs create an evergreen tunnel through which the trail passes. I have yet to properly time one of my favorite hikes to catch them in bloom as the hover over the Green Brook in the Abram S. Hewitt State Forest in northern NJ. Maybe this will be the year.
As with other rhododendrons, all parts of Rhododendron maximum are highly toxic if ingested. If necessary, prune immediately after flowering.