PO Box 419

Hotchkiss, CO 81419



fax: 720-880-3051




Saponaria officinalis L.


Keys to Identification

  • Flowers are clustered at the ends of branches
  • Bouncingbet leaves originate from slightly swollen nodes

This information courtesy of the Colorado Natural Areas Program


Family: Caryophyllaceae (Pink)

Other Names: soapwort, lady by the garden gate

USDA Code:

Legal Status: Colorado Noxious Weed List B




Growth form: Perennial forb.

Flower: The flowers are crowded at the ends of branches, and have five petals that are generally pink and slightly notched at the apex. July-Sept.

Seeds/Fruit: Fruits are many-seeded capsules. Seeds are dull-black and roundish or kidney-shaped.

Leaves: Leaves are opposite, smooth, narrow, 2-4 in long and have three distinct veins from the base.

Stems: Mature plants are up to 3 ft tall with stout, erect, smooth, branching stems.

Roots: Rhizomatous root system

Seedling: No information available.



Similar Species

Exotics: None known.

Natives: Cerastium spp. (mouse-ear) have separate (usually white) petals instead of united petals. Many other members of the pink family appear similar.




Agricultural: Can be poisonous to livestock although it is generally considered unpalatable.

Ecological: Spreads rapidly, replacing more valuable species (e.g. perennial grasses).



Habitat and Distribution

General requirements: Often found in large dense patches on hillsides, along river courses, roadsides, meadows, and waste areas. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, and full sun to partial shade and is currently found primarily in municipal areas and nearby wildlands.

Distribution: Scattered throughout the United States. Bouncingbet is increasingly common in Colorado, particularly in residential areas and local open spaces where it has escaped cultivation as an ornamental species.

Historical: Originally introduced from Europe as a garden ornamental and for its saponins, which are the source of it soap-producing qualities (Lokker and Cavers 1995).




Life cycle: Flowering begins in July and continues until September.

Mode of reproduction: Reproduces by seed and spreads clonally by rhizomes.

Seed production: No information available.

Seed bank: No information available.

Dispersal: No information available.




Lokker, C. and P.B. Cavers. The effects of physical damage on seed production in flowering plants of Saponaria officinalis. Canadian Journal of Botany 73:235-243.

Whitson, T.D.(ed.), L.C. Burrill, S.A. Dewey, D.W. Cudney, B.E. Nelson, R.D. Lee, R. Parker. 1996. Bouncingbet. Weeds of the West. Western Society of Weed Science, in cooperation with the Western United States Land Grant Universities Cooperative Extension Services, Newark, CA.


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