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: SAOF4
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.
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.