Ceanothus herbaceus (Narrow-leaved New Jersey Tea)

Plant Info
Also known as: Prairie Redroot
Family:Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; upland woods, prairies, barrens
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Dense, rounded clusters at the tips of new growth. Clusters are about as tall as wide, compound, made up of several smaller stalkless clusters at the tip, and may have an additional smaller, short stalked cluster from the uppermost leaf axil. Flowers are white, ¼ to 3/8 inch across, with 5 spreading spoon-shaped petals alternating with 5 broad, triangular, white sepals that fold in towards the center of the flower. The petal edges fold up giving them a pipe or hatchet like profile. Arising from the fold of each petal is a single stamen, sometimes dark tipped. A single white, 3-parted style is in the center.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, oblong to lance-elliptic, ½ to 2¼ inches long and typically 1/3 to half as wide as long, with three central veins, surfaces mostly smooth, the upper often glossy or with few scattered hairs along veins, especially on the underside. The edges have fine, gland-tipped teeth, the glands nothing more than a tiny brown dot at the tip of a tooth. Both the lower woody stems and upper green branches are hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a flattened, three part capsule about ¼ inch across, green turning black with maturity.


Narrow-leaved New Jersey Tea is a low bushy shrub typically around knee high. The lower stems are persistently woody with the upper herbaceaus branches dying back annually. It is only superficially similar in appearance to New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) which has broad, oval to egg-shaped leaves that are rounded at the base of the leaf blade and fine hairs throughout making the leaf surfaces dull. Its clusters are larger and elongated with several clusters on long, naked stalks from the upper leaf axils of the seasonal branches, where C. herbaceus clusters are at the end of leafy branches. C. herbaceus also flowers about a month earlier than its broader leaved relative. Both inhabit similar dry or rocky, open habitats but they are rarely found growing in close proximity and C. americanus is more common with a broader range.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Houston and Wabasha counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Lois - 2 miles from Nevis MN
on: 2016-06-07 21:20:47

This is the first year I have noticed it, but it is plentiful on our property this year in a sunny location. I have also seen it along side the Heartland Trail bike path northeast of Nevis.

Posted by: cheryl b - hyland park reserve
on: 2018-05-16 04:11:12

These are near the prairie section at hyland park reserve.

Posted by: luciearl - Fairview Twp, Cass County
on: 2020-06-10 21:49:27

Found this today in the ditch next to my woods. First time seeing it. Just one clump.

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