Staphylea trifolia L. - American Bladdernut

Staphylea trifolia plant

Family - Staphyleaceae

Stems - Woody, multiple. A shrub to 11m tall. Freely suckering.

Staphylea trifolia stem

Leaves - Opposite, trifoliate. Leaflets elliptic, ovate or obovate, to 10cm long, 5cm broad, serrate, glabrous to sparsely pubescent above, pubescent below. Middle leaflet on long petiolule, lateral leaflets sessile or on short petiolules.

Inflorescence - Drooping, axillary or terminal racemose clusters.

Flowers - Corolla white, campanulate. Petals 5, to 1cm long, spatulate, 3-4mm broad at apex, glabrous, free. Stamens 5, slightly protruding past corolla, alternating with petals. Filaments 8mm long, pilose at base. Anthers yellow-orange, 1.2mm long. Ovary superior, pilose. Styles 4, 5mm long, glabrous. Calyx 5-lobed, campanulate. Lobes to 7mm long, 4mm broad, pale green to semi-transparent, erect, equaling or slightly shorter than petals. Fruits inflated, 3-sided, whitish, becoming brown when drying. Seeds 1-4.

Staphylea trifolia flowers

Staphylea trifolia fruitsDeveloping fruits.

Flowering - April - May. Fruits persistent into winter.

Habitat - Rich woods, thickets, shaded slopes, along streams.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This is a common shrub which blooms quickly. The flowers don't last long but the fruits persist for some time.
This is an easy species to identify becasue of its opposite, trifoliate leaves, and inflated fruits. The plant can be found throughout Missouri but may be absent from the extreme southeast corner of the state.

Photographs taken in Columbia, MO., 4-15-04, and at Rock Bridge State Park, MO., 5-22-04.


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