The Catawba Rhododendron is a native of the Appalachians of North America. It grows naturally on open land on the tops and slopes of hills, where it forms magnificent, flowering communities together with other species such as the flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum). It is a round, bushy evergreen. The flowers are broad and bell-shaped, violet, white or pale mauve in colour and have greenish-yellow flecks.
The Mustila Catawba Rhododendrons were obtained in the 1990s from a natural habitat 2000 metres above sea level in the highest peaks of the Appalachians. They now thrive on the southern slope of Mustila’s Rhododendron Valley, in low, round bushes and have produced a mass of open, almost lavender-blue flowers.
The Catawba Rhododendron is one of the first species of rhododendron to be brought to Europe from North America. Being one of the hardiest large-leaved varieties, it has been widely used for breeding varieties capable of withstanding the Finnish winter. Many of the old park rhododendrons of the Catawbiense group have its genome, the most common of all being the Grandiflorum Catawba Rhododendron.