Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Jersey Tea - Ceanothus americanus

New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus) is another rather common inhabitant of Florida's sandhill and open well-drained woodland habitats and occurs throughout much of the state except the extreme southern counties. It is also found throughout much of eastern North America including all of Canada east of the Rockies.
Named for the fact that both the native peoples and the early settlers made a tea from its roots (drank to relieve toothache, digestive problems, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, spleen pain and as a sedative ), the root is astringent due to its tannin content and contains an alkaloid that lowers blood pressure. As one might imagine with this many reported uses, there is some well-developed folklore surrounding this plant.
New Jersey tea also is renowned for use in the butterfly garden. Nearly every book or article written on the topic for the Northeast, Midwest, or Mid-south includes this plant as an ideal nectar source.
Despite this notoriety, New Jersey tea is not available currently from Florida native nursery growers. We are hoping to correct this omission here at Hawthorn Hill, but we are still in the experimental stage with our propagation program.
New Jersey tea is a deciduous shrub that rarely stands taller than 3 feet. It is nearly as round as it is tall. The leaves are a rich green in color, decidely arrow-shaped, with teeth along the leaf margins. What makes it truly attractive, however, are the snow-white blooms that cover the top of the plant for about a month each spring. Though the individual bloom is tiny, they occur in heads nearly 1 inch across and hundreds of these flower heads may bloom simultaneously.
New Jersey tea is an attractive nectar source for a host of small butterflies. It is also the host plant for the gray scrub-hairstreak as well as the mottled duskywing skipper.
In a landscape, New Jersey tea is rather easy to grow and forgiving of most settings except poor drainage. Plant it in the front half of the planting bed and give it plenty of sun.


  1. I know this was posted several years ago, but if anybody can answer, please do! My NJ Tea has very pale pink flowers rather than white, and it's blooming now--Sept-Oct. I think it bloomed in spring as well, but I'm not sure. Any idea what is going on? Is it a different cultivar, do you suppose?
    Thank you.

      Perhaps you have this cultivar. I have not heard to a pink-flowered form in the wild of the true species.


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