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Bouncing Bet Saponaria officinalis


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Bouncing Bet
credit: TeunSpaans/CCSA

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Alternate name: Soapwort

Family: Caryophyllaceae, Carnation view all from this family

Description This is a popular ornamental species that escapes regularly from cultivation, distinguished by its opposite, simple, toothless leaves, its sepals united into a cylindrical tube, its 2 styles, and its notched petals.
Habit: introduced perennial herb; upright, with smooth leafy stems, branched or not; rhizomatous, forms large colonies.
Height: 1-3 ft (30-90 cm)
Leaf: opposite, lanceolate to ovate, pointed, 3-5 veined, 1-4 in (25-100 mm) long or more, 0.5-2 in (12-50 mm) wide.
Flower: white to pink to rose, 5-parted or sometimes double, to 1 in (25 mm) wide, fragrant; petals notched at tip, flaring backward; sepals form tube 1 in (25 mm) long or more; held in domed terminal cluster of many flowerheads.
Fruit: capsule, cylindrical, smooth, 4-toothed, around 0.75 in (18 mm) long.

Warning This plant is reportedly poisonous to animals if ingested. Humans should generally avoid ingesting plants that are toxic to animals.

Flower May to September.

Habitat Waste places, streamsides, fields, meadows, roadsides, disturbed areas; to 8500 ft (2600 m); widely cultivated as an ornamental.

Range Native to northern Europe and Asia, introduced, escaped from cultivation, now naturalized throughout the lower 48 states and southern Canada.

Discussion Also known as soapwort, sweet Betty. Considered weedy or invasive in some areas. Listed as noxious in Colorado. A liquid soap can be made by soaking or boiling the leaves and roots in water.