South Dakota Native Plant Research
Rhamnaceae : Ceanothus herbaceus

Rhamnaceae : Ceanothus herbaceus


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Family Name


Common Name

New Jersey tea

Native American Name

Lakota: uŋpȟáŋ tȟawóte


Ceanothus herbaceous is a deciduous, perennial, woody, bushy shrub growing up to 1 m tall. The simple, alternate leaves are 3-nerved, oblong to oblanceolate, the margins with small teeth and glandular when young. The upper surface of the leaves usually have a slightly white waxy covering and the lower surface with long white hairs. The inflorescence consists of terminal panicles at the ends of the leafy branches of the new year, on peduncles 1-5 cm long. the tiny white flowers have a short calyx tube with 5 lobes 1.6 mm long, 5 hooded petals, ~2.5 mm long, constricted (clawed) for ½ their length. There are 5 stamens with a 3-lobed ovary surrounded by a 10-lobed collar, 1.5 mm wide. The fruit is a 3-lobed capsule, 3-4.5 mm wide. New Jersey tea blooms in May and June on prairies and open wooded hills in western South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Jersey tea is an attractive, smaller shrub, attracting native bees, wasps and beetle pollinators. The black fruit attract many bird species. The leaves are said to make a fragrant tea.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Fruit ripen and begin opening in mid-summer, becoming black, containing 2mm long brownish seeds.

Germination: Breaking dormancy requires a 60-day cold moist treatment or fall sowing. Germination is improved is seeds are covered with boiling water and allowed to stand for 24 hours before either.

Light: Full sun.

Soil: Well drained clays to sandy loams, with high limestone concentrations preferred.

Water: Dry to medium dry.

Rhamnaceae : Ceanothus herbaceus