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Vascular Plants of California
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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 most 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. Seed: appendage generally 0 (present in Moehringia).
Genera In Family: +- 100 genera, 3000 species: widespread, especially arctic, alpine, temperate northern hemisphere; some cultivated (Agrostemma, Arenaria, Atocion, Cerastium, Dianthus, Gypsophila, Lychnis, Sagina, Saponaria, Silene). Note: Apetalous Caryophyllaceae can also be keyed in Rabeler & Hartman 2005 FNANM 5:5--8. Taxa of Minuartia in TJM2 treated here in Cherleria and Sabulina; Pseudostellaria in Hartmaniella and Torreyostellaria; Vaccaria in Gypsophila; Velezia in Dianthus.
eFlora Treatment Author: Ronald L. Hartman (deceased) & Richard K. Rabeler, except as noted
Scientific Editor: Bruce G. Baldwin & 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.
Etymology: (Latin: soap, from sap lathering with water) Note: Saponaria ocymoides L. not in California.
eFlora Treatment Author: Ronald L. Hartman (deceased) & Richard K. Rabeler
Reference: Thieret & Rabeler 2005 FNANM 5:157--158
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.
Jepson eFlora Author: Ronald L. Hartman (deceased) & Richard K. Rabeler
Reference: Thieret & Rabeler 2005 FNANM 5:157--158
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)
View the CDFA Pest Rating page for Saponaria officinalis
Weed listed by Cal-IPC

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Botanical illustration including Saponaria officinalis

botanical illustration including Saponaria officinalis

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Citation for this treatment: Ronald L. Hartman (deceased) & Richard K. Rabeler 2012, Saponaria officinalis, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 28, 2024.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2024, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 28, 2024.

Saponaria officinalis
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©2009 Neal Kramer
Saponaria officinalis
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©2015 Barry Breckling
Saponaria officinalis
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©2008 Keir Morse
Saponaria officinalis
click for enlargement
©2009 Neal Kramer
Saponaria officinalis
click for enlargement
©2009 Barry Breckling

More photos of Saponaria officinalis
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Geographic subdivisions for Saponaria officinalis:
NW, CaRH, n SNF, SnFrB, SCoRO, SCo, PR, GB
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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).


Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.
View all CCH records
All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).