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Saponaria officinalis

Higher Taxonomy
Family: CaryophyllaceaeView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Common Name: PINK FAMILY
Habit: Annual to perennial herb; rarely dioecious (Silene), taprooted or rhizome generally slender. Leaf: simple, generally opposite (subwhorled), entire, pairs at nodes often +- connected at bases; stipules generally 0; petiole generally 0. Inflorescence: generally cyme, generally open; flowers 1--many; involucre generally 0 (present in Dianthus, Petrorhagia). Flower: generally bisexual, radial; hypanthium often present but obscure; sepals (4)5, +- free or fused into a tube, margins generally scarious, more so on inner 2 or not, tube generally not scarious, awns generally 0; petals (4)5 or 0, generally tapered to base (or with claw long, limb expanded), entire to 2--several-lobed, limb generally without scale-like appendages adaxially, generally without ear-like lobes at base; stamens generally 10, generally fertile, generally free, generally from ovary base; nectaries 0 or 5; ovary superior, generally 1-chambered, placentas basal or free-central, styles 2--5 with 0 branches or 1 with 2--3 branches. Fruit: capsule or utricle (rarely +- dehiscent), generally sessile.
Genera In Family: 83 or 89 genera, 3000 species: widespread, especially arctic, alpine, temperate northern hemisphere; some cultivated (Agrostemma, Arenaria, Cerastium, Dianthus, Gypsophila, Lychnis, Sagina, Saponaria, Silene, Vaccaria). Note: Apetalous Caryophyllaceae can also be keyed in Rabeler & Hartman 2005 FNANM 5:5--8.
eFlora Treatment Author: Ronald L. Hartman & Richard K. Rabeler, except as noted
Scientific Editor: Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: SaponariaView Description 

Common Name: SOAPWORT
Habit: Perennial herb, erect, rhizomed. Leaf: petioled or not; blade oblanceolate to ovate; veins 3. Inflorescence: terminal, dense; flowers 20--40+; pedicels generally 0--3 mm. Flower: sepals 5, fused, tube prominent, 15--20 mm, 4--8 mm diam, lanceolate to oblong, rounded, veins 20, obscure, lobes 5, 1.5--5 mm, triangular-acuminate; petals 5, 25--40 mm, claw long, limb entire to +- obcordate, appendages 2; stamens fused with petals to ovary stalk; styles 2, 12--15 mm. Fruit: capsule, +- ovoid; stalk 2--3 mm; valves 4, ascending to recurved. Seed: many, +- purple to black.
Species In Genus: 40 species: Eurasia, northern Africa. Etymology: (Latin: soap, from sap lathering with water) Note: Saponaria ocymoides L. not in California.

Saponaria officinalis L.
Habit: Plant 3--9+ dm, +- glabrous. Stem: simple or branched above. Leaf: 3--10 cm. Inflorescence: peduncles ascending or erect, bracted. Flower: calyx tube obdepressed around pedicel, +- narrowed near base, lobes unequal, thinly scarious; petals pink, limb 8--12 mm wide, obovate, appendages 1--2 mm, lance-linear. Seed: 1.5--2 mm, +- spheric, notched, +- compressed, tubercled. Chromosomes: 2n=28.
Ecology: Roadsides, oak woodland, streambeds, disturbed areas; Elevation: < 1850 m. Bioregional Distribution: NW, CaRH, n SNF, SnFrB, SCoRO, SCo, PR, GB; Distribution Outside California: North America; native to southern Europe. Flowering Time: Jun--Sep Note: "Double-flowered" cultivars also naturalized.
eFlora Treatment Author: Ronald L. Hartman & Richard K. Rabeler
Jepson Online Interchange
Weed listed by Cal-IPC

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botanical illustration including Saponaria officinalis


Citation for this treatment: Ronald L. Hartman & Richard K. Rabeler 2017. Saponaria officinalis, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on October 22, 2017.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2017. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on October 22, 2017.

Saponaria officinalis
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© 2008 Keir Morse
Saponaria officinalis
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© 2009 Neal Kramer
Saponaria officinalis
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© 2009 Neal Kramer
Saponaria officinalis
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© 2009 Barry Breckling
Saponaria officinalis
click for enlargement
© 2009 Barry Breckling
Saponaria officinalis
click for enlargement
© 2009 Neal Kramer

More photos of Saponaria officinalis in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Saponaria officinalis:
NW, CaRH, n SNF, SnFrB, SCoRO, SCo, PR, GB;
Markers link to CCH specimen records. Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues. Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).

View elevation by latitude chart
Data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria.
View all CCH records

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time.