Bouncing Bette

Latin name: Saponaria officinalis L.


Common name: Bouncing Bet, Common Soapwort

Plant family: Caryophyllaceae – Carnation 1

Date/Location of specimen: Found in flowerbeds and along field edges on my property. Blooms July – October.

Description: A European native, Bouncing bet is a herbaceous perennial, 1-3 feet tall, which grows from rhizomes. The stems are erect and jointed with opposite elliptic leaves which are 3-4 inches long and 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches wide at the middle. The leaf margins lack teeth. The flowers come in clusters of cylindric sepals and bloom from June to September, displaying 5-6 petals notched at the apex. Petal colors range from white to pink. The fruit is a capsule about 1 inch long and 1/4 inch thick containing many somewhat round black seeds. The seeds have minute bumps on the surface. Bouncing Bet contains large amounts of saponins, which froth when extracted with water.2 Hence, the name Bouncing Bet that refers to a laundrywoman.3

Fun fact: In the Middle East, the root is often used as an additive in the process of making the popular sweet, halvah. 1

Pest/Disease & Gardening Limitations: All parts of the plant, and especially the seeds, contain saponin which is toxic in large quantities. Hard to eradicate due to spread through rhizomes. Reseeds and volunteers in unwanted places.

3 Just Weeds by Edwin Rollin Spencer ©1957 Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY

Collection Sample #4 of 5 PLANTS

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