Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Minniebush - Rhododendron pilosum   (Michaux) Craven
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Section 6 » Family Ericaceae
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Author(Michaux) Craven
DistributionThroughout the mountains (probably in all counties). An apparently isolated specimen record from Iredell County (if correct).

This species is an Appalachian Mountain endemic, but it is not simply a “southern Appalachian” species, but it ranges into the central Appalachians, north to central PA. There are only a few records of the species into the Piedmont.
AbundanceFairly common to locally common, but rather restricted in habitat, and thus not widely encountered across the province.
HabitatA common and sometimes dominant species of heath balds, and also present around the margins of exposed, high elevation rocky summits. It also occurs in rocky forests, and (oddly enough) found in bogs. It is mainly found over 4000 feet elevation.
See also Habitat Account for General Rhododendron Thickets and Balds
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, later than most species of ericaceous shrubs; fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis deciduous shrub grows to about 5-6’ tall. Though it has fairly thin, elliptical leaves like so many other shrubs, the species is somewhat unique in its pale “nipple” tip at the end of each leaf. The leaves also tend to have a wrinkled look, but the tip of the leaf is the primary identification character. It has dangling, small, pale pink to rosy flowers that are not overly showy, but at high elevation mountaintops in early summer the flowers can be conspicuous, especially as many or most other shrubs are not in bloom then.
Taxonomic CommentsLong known as Menziesia pilosa, many recent authorities place this species – oddly so to most people – in the genus Rhododendron, as R. pilosum, even though its urn-shaped flower appearance is similar to so many other ericads such as huckleberries and blueberries and is nothing like the much larger and widely expansive colorful flowers of rhododendrons and azaleas (genus Rhododendron).

Other Common Name(s)Allegheny Menziesia
State RankS4
Global RankG4G5
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