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Ceanothus americanus

Ceanothus americanus L.

Ceanothus americanus L. var. intermedius (Pursh) Torr. & A. Gray

Ceanothus americanus L. var. pitcheri Torr. & A. Gray

Ceanothus intermedius Pursh

New Jersey Tea, Red Root, Wild Snowball, Mountain Sweet

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae (from Stearn’s Botanical Latin)
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderRhamnalesBuckthorns, oleasters, grapes, others
FamilyRhamnaceaeBuckthorn family
GenusCeanothusGreek for “spiny plant”
Speciesamericanus“Of or from America”

About plant names...

New Jersey tea is so named because the dried leaves of this North American native were often used as tea during the Revolutionary War. Several dyes have been extracted from this plant: green (from the white (!) flowers); brown from the whole plant; and red from its red roots. Native Americans washed using the flowers, which contain saponins—natural soap. This shrub is nitrogen-fixing, meaning that it converts atmospheric nitrogen directly into usable nutrition (with the help of bacteria).

Identification: New Jersey tea is a deciduous shrub less than 18-42" (45-106 cm) tall. The roots are thick, woody, and red in color. Leaves are alternate, 2-4" (5-10 cm) long, and have very fine hairs that make them appear a bit grayish in color. Small white flowers appear in clusters up to 2" (5 cm) around, on long thin leafless branch tips. Fruits begin as brown-black irregularly shaped globes about ⅛-¼" (3.2-6.3 mm) around. As they age, three white nutlets become visible. When these first caught my eye from a distance, the alternating brown and white sections appeared golden in color.

Edibility: A tea said by some sources to be “refreshing and stimulating” was made from the leaves during the Revolutionary War.

Online References:

Ceanothus americanus on Carolina Nature, from Will Cook

Ceanothus americanus on Missouriplants.com

Ceanothus americanus on Earl J.S. Rook's Flora, Fauna, Earth, and Sky ... The Natural History of the Northwoods

Ceanothus americanus at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Ceanothus americanus on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

Ceanothus americanus description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.

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Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea, Red Root, Wild Snowball, Mountain Sweet)

9/10/2011 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Near Nashua, Dunstable, MA
≈ 7 × 4½" (17 × 11 cm) ID is uncertain

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea, Red Root, Wild Snowball, Mountain Sweet)

9/10/2011 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Near Nashua, Dunstable, MA
≈ 4 × 4" (10 × 10 cm) ID is uncertain

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea, Red Root, Wild Snowball, Mountain Sweet)

9/10/2011 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Near Nashua, Dunstable, MA
≈ 6 × 6" (16 × 14 cm) ID is uncertain

Range:

About this map...