Saponaria officinalis L. - Bouncing Bet

Saponaria officinalis plant

Family - Cayophyllaceae

Stems - Single or multiple from base, erect, herbaceous, from a taproot and rhizomes, branching, hollow, glabrous, to 1m tall, terete.

Saponaria officinalis stem

Leaves - Opposite or in whorls of 3 or 4, sessile, connected at bases by thin tissue, oblong-elliptic, entire, slightly wavy to crisped on margins, glabrous, acute, with 3 main veins, to +7cm long, +/-3cm broad.

Inflorescence - Terminal and axillary cymes. Peduncles slightly swollen at the base, glabrous. Ultimate pedicels to 3mm long, glabrous.

Flowers - Petals 5, long-clawed, white to pink. Claw to +1.5cm long, glabrous, winged. Wing of claw forming a 1-2mm appendage at base of limb. Limb to +/-1.5cm long, notched at apex, to 8-9mm broad, glabrous. Stamens inserted in folds of claw wings, 10, exserted, distinct. Filaments white, glabrous, to +2cm long. Anthers white to pale yellow, -2mm long. Ovary superior, green, glabrous, cylindric, to 9mm long in flower, 1.5mm in diameter, unilocular. Placentation free-central. Ovules many. Styles 2, white to pink, glabrous, 1.4cm long. Calyx light green or with some red, glabrous, cylindric, +1-2cm long, 5mm in diameter(in flower), 5-toothed. Teeth acute, triangular, to 3mm long, short aristate. Base of calyx saccate around pedicel.

Saponaria officinalis flowers

Flowering - June - October.

Habitat - Gravel and sand bars along streams, ditches, waste ground, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Other info. - This species can be found throughout Missouri. It was previously grown as an ornamental but has escaped and is well established in much of North America.
This species contains saponin glycosides and will foam if crushed and rubbed. The plant can be used as soap and is being studied for medicinal uses also. It is toxic if eaten. Formerly the plant was used by indians and europeans for a host of ailments.

Photographs taken at Dave Rock Conservation Area, St. Clair County, MO., 7-12-00, and in Van Buren, MO., 6-16-01.


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