Rhododendron maximum by SB JohnnyPhoto by Johnny

Fast Facts

  • Adopted the West Virginia state flower in 1903
  • Botanical name: Rhododendron maximum
  • Common names: Great Laurel, Great Rhododendron, Rosebay and Rosebay Rhododendron
  • Rhododendrons are nicknamed “rhodies”
  • Rhododendron trivia: The name rhododendron means “rose tree”.
  • West Virginia Flower Delivery

If state history can be a guide for what is to come, then the rhododendron was a shoe-in for the state flower of West Virginia. In 1901, records show the outgoing Governor George Atkinson praising the shrub’s attractive nature and ubiquitous presence: “I know none more beautiful and none more common in West Virginia, than the Rhododendron. It is found along most every vale and hillside, and is universally admired both for its beauty and fragrance”. Only a couple years after in 1903, lawmakers named the rhododendron West Virginia’s state flower after an overwhelming vote of the state’s school children in its favor along with the governor’s recommendation.

Gov. Atkinson knew his floral facts. Rhododendrons were, and still are, extremely common in West Virginia as well as throughout the eastern United States. The fragrant shrubs, which are members of the heath family, grow in almost every region of the state except for in its westernmost counties. West Virginia’s state flower flourishes on ravines, hillsides and under thick tree canopies of hemlock and maples. The perennials’ success is partly due to its ability to thrive in various conditions. Rhododendrons can tolerate both partial sun and dense shade (in the Appalachian region, they are the dominant understory plants on millions of acres).

Rhododendron by Zeynel CebeciPhoto by Zeynel Cebeci

West Virginia’s state flower can also grow to be quite wide and high. Though the average height is approximately 15 feet, some plants reach 40 feet (thus the “maximum” in the plant’s botanical name).

Every year in July, rhododendrons bloom with pink or white flower clusters. Each cluster contains up to 25 flowers and provides an attractive contrast to the rhododendron’s dark evergreen foliage.

Though the West Virginia state flower is frequently found in the wild, it is also commonly used in landscaping. In the cities and suburbs of Huntington and Charleston, rhododendrons are used as a border plant or as hedges. Some gardeners also plant rhododendrons to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.


West Virginia state page


Connecticut Botanical Society