South Dakota Native Plant Research
Rhamnaceae : Ceanothus velutinus

Rhamnaceae : Ceanothus velutinus


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Family Name


Common Name

Mountain balm


Ceanothus velutinus is an evergreen, perennial, spreading shrub growing 0.5-2.5 m tall, lacking spines and forming large colonies. The simple, alternate leaves are 3-nerved, ovate to ovate-elliptic, 4-8 cm long, the margins with small glandular teeth. The upper surface of the leaves are shiny green and often sticky, and the lower surface is pale with long often velvety hairs. The inflorescence consists of axillary, dense panicles. The tiny white flowers have a short calyx tube with 5 incurved lobes < 2 mm long, 5 recurved hooded petals, 2-2.5 mm long, abruptly constricted (clawed). There are 5 upwardly curved stamens with a 3-lobed ovary surrounded by a 10-lobed disk. The fruit is a 3-lobed capsule, 5-6 mm wide, with a slight crest above the middle. Mountain balm blooms in June and July on dry, open wooded hillsides in western South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Mountain balm is an excellent choice for the native plant garden. The shiny evergreen leaves and fragrant flowers make it a striking center piece to a hillside garden, and its evergreen leaves can provide winter color underneath deciduous trees. The flowers attract native bees, wasps and butterfly pollinators. The black fruit attract many bird species that eat the seeds.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Fruit ripen and begin opening in mid-summer, becoming black, containing 2.5 mm 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.

Vegetative propagation: Plant colonies can be divided and transplanted.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Soil: Well drained clays to sandy loams.

Water: Moist to medium dry.

Rhamnaceae : Ceanothus velutinus