Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Pacific NInebark

Pacific NInebark or Western Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) is a shrub, in the family Rosaceae, that is native to California and confined to western North America - from southern Alaska east to Montana and Utah, and south to southern California; in the Redwood Forest, Chaparral, Yellow Pine Forest, Red Fir Forest, wetland-riparian communities.

Pacific Ninebark: photo by Cliff Hutson
Pacific Ninebark: photo by Cliff Hutson

The plant gets its common name from its bark which may peel showing several layers. The name Physocarpus is from the Greek phusa or physa, "bladder" and karpos, "fruit," thus "bladdery fruit”.  The appellation capitatus refers to the way the flowers form in a head-like cluster.

It is a deciduous bush with round clusters of white flowers, with five petals and numerous red-tipped stamens, in 3"-5" clusters, flowering May through July. The blossoms have been noted as being attractive  to a large number of native bees. Small animals and birds find shelter in its branches. The leaves are alternate, generally serrate, and remind me of small grape or currant leaves, though some say they are maple-like. They are lobed about 1.2–5.5 inches long and broad, which turn intense red to orange in the fall. It can grow to eight feet tall. The fruit is an inflated glossy red pod which turns dry and brown and then splits open to release seeds.

Many nurseries recommend the plant not only for its delightful display of flowers, and its showiness in Fall, but also for the sculptural attractiveness the rest of the year. While it grows most robustly in wet environments, it is drought-tolerant to a degree and could do well in any garden where the climate is not oppressively hot.

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