Rhododendron carolinianum Rehder. Phen: Late Apr-May; Sep-Oct. Hab: Rocky summits, heath balds, high elevation forests, moist slopes. Dist: A Southern Appalachian endemic: w. NC, e. TN, ne. GA, and nw. SC, from the Linville Gorge area (and rarely as far north as Alleghany County, NC) south and west to the Great Smoky Mountains; its precise southern limit uncertain.
Origin/Endemic status: Endemic
Taxonomy Comments: R. carolinianum is phenologically separated from R. minus, flowering earlier than R. minus, despite its occurrence at higher elevations and with a more northerly distribution. Morphological distinctions between the two taxa are subtle and inconsistent, as discussed by Duncan & Pullen (1962). From a horticultural perspective, Davidian (1982) supports recognition of R. carolinianum and R. minus as distinct. Gensel (1988, and pers.comm.) did detailed studies of the complex and supported the recognition of three taxa (R. carolinianum, R. minus, and R. chapmanii). More recent studies suggest that this "entity" as treated here actually consists of two species, which have been conceptually entangled.
Synonymy: = K1, K3, K4, S, Albach & Bauer (2021), Davidian (1982); < Rhododendron minus Michx. – RAB, Tn, W; < Rhododendron minus Michx. var. minus – FNA8, Cullen (1980), Duncan & Pullen (1962), Luteyn et al (1996)