Ontario Weeds: Bouncingbet
Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication
Table of Contents
- Other Names
- General Description
- Stems and Roots
- Flowers and Fruit
- Similar Species
- Related Links
Name: Bouncingbet, Saponaria officinalis
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.
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.
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