Ontario Weeds: Bouncingbet

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
  5. Stems and Roots
  6. Leaves
  7. Flowers and Fruit
  8. Habitat
  9. Similar Species
  10. Caution
  11. Related Links

Name: Bouncingbet, Saponaria officinalis L.,

Other Names: saponaire officinale, Bouncing Bet, Soapwort, saponaire officinale, savonière, herbe à savon

Family: Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae)

General Description: Perennial, reproducing by seed and by spreading underground stems, often forming dense patches. Underground parts very coarse and almost woody.

Photos and Pictures



Stems & Roots: Stems 30-120cm (1-4ft) high, smooth, very leafy.

Leaves: Opposite (2 per node), ovate or elliptic, rounded or tapered towards both ends, with 3 to 5 prominent lengthwise veins on the underside.

Flowers & Fruit: Flower bright, showy, white to pinkish, clustered in a thick short-branched inflorescence; sepals united in a tubular calyx with many (usually 20), fine, lengthwise veins and 5 very short teeth, petals 5 or many in "doubled flowers," usually fragrant; seedpods cylindrical, enclosed in the calyx; seeds dull black, roundish kidney-shaped, 1.5mm (1/16in.) across, and rough. Flowers from midsummer to late autumn.

Habitat: Bouncingbet is common throughout southern Ontario occurring along roadsides, in waste places and old building sites, but only occasionally in fields and pastures.

Similar Species: It is distinguished by growing in thick patches, its smooth stems with opposite leaves, its dense inflorescence, and smooth, cylindrical calyx tube with many veins.

Caution: The leaves and seeds of Bouncingbet contain saponins (soap-like natural chemicals) which can be poisonous to livestock. Indeed, the leaves were used by early settlers as a poor but effective substitute for soap.

Related Links

... on general Weed topics
... on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
... on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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