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Also known as mountain snowball or redroot (because of its red roots), NJ tea is a compact, rounded shrub that typically grows three feet tall and sports loads of billowy, white clusters of flowers in May-June. Flowers are followed by triangular fruit capsules in July that ripen to dull purplish-black. One of the few non-legumes that fixes nitrogen, improving soil nutrition and helping plants nearby to grow. Its deep roots are good for erosion control on slopes The showy blooms and attractive black fruits draw numerous pollinators and birds. Makes an effective shrubby groundcover for rocky slopes and other difficult areas. Difficult to transplant, so choose your site wisely.

 

Occurs naturally in prairies, glades, dry open woods, roadsides, and thickets throughout the state. Can be used as a specimen, or in foundations, shrub borders, pollinator gardens, dry prairie meadows, or mass plantings.

 

Plant Characteristics:

Grows 3-5’ tall and 5’ wide. Slow-growing until root system is established in 2nd or 3rd year.

 

Prefers full sun, but can take as little as 4 hours per day.

 

Easily grown in average, well-drained soil, sandy loams or rocky soils. Its deep roots make it highly drought tolerant, once established.

 

Tolerates proximity to walnuts.

 

Oblong green leaves are 3-6” long with serrated margins.

 

Young stems are yellow and bark is thin and dark brown.

 

Wildlife Value:

A host for 37 species of Lepidoptera, including one specialist butterfly: the mottled duskywing, and 5 specialist moths. Yellow-faced bees, sweat bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and other pollinators seek nectar and pollen from the flowers.

 

Medicinal, Edible and Other Uses:

Native Americans used the plant for a multitude of disorders, including respiratory issues, spasms, fevers, snakebites, digestive issues, and skin problems. New Jersey tea was also used to stem bleeding after childbirth, and research has shown that the roots do contain a blood-clotting agent.

 

People have used New Jersey tea as a mild sedative, as an astringent, and as a support for the lymphatic system.

 

During the Revolutionary War, the dried leaves were brewed into a tea that substituted for black tea. By

New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus

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  • For summer planting, water deeply 1-2 times weekly

     

    For fall planting, water every 1-2 weeks; water more often during prolonged hot, dry spells

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