Physocarpus opulifolius (Ninebark)

Plant Info
Also known as: Atlantic Ninebark, Common Ninebark
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; rocky or sandy soil; cliffs, shores, bluffs, stream banks, moist woods
Bloom season:May - August
Plant height:2 to 8 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
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: round

[photo of flowers] Round to dome-shaped clusters, ¾ to 2¼ inches across, of long-stalked flowers at the tips of branches. Flowers are white, ¼ to ½ inch across with 5 round petals. In the center are 3 to 5 pistils with long, slender yellow-capped styles and 30 to 40 slender, spreading, pink-tipped stamens. Sepals are triangular, less than 1/8 inch long, with or without star-shaped (stellate) hairs.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, 1½ to 5 inches long, 1 to 3 inches wide, the blades lance-oval to nearly round in outline, mostly 3-lobed (up to 5) with coarsely toothed edges, on a stalk 1/3 to 1 inch long. The upper surface is dark green, lower surface lighter, both either have stellate hairs or are smooth.

[photo of canes] Stems are multiple from the base, about 1 inch maximum diameter, branches are upright and arching. One year-old branches are simple, cane-like, forming lateral flowering branches the second year and dying out after several years. New canes develop each year from vegetative buds at the base of older branches. Young bark is brown and mostly smooth, turning gray, older bark peeling in papery strips.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Flower clusters become drooping in fruit and persist through winter. Each flower produces a group of 3 to 5 inflated, 1/3 inch long capsules called follicles, each with a single hard seed inside. The grouped follicles hang in a round cluster, initially greenish red to bright red, drying brown, surfaces are either smooth or have stellate hairs.

[photo of seeds] The seed is somewhat teardrop-shaped, light tan colored and very shiny.


Like many species common to the eastern US, Ninebark's range only creeps into Minnesota's most eastern counties. It is however only occasionally encountered in woodlands, more predominantly found in transition habitats characterized by rocky or sandy soils in full sun to part shade with sufficient moisture. It is easily recognized by the numerous rounded clusters of white flowers or long-stalked fruit, and the slender canes with peeling bark. While not recognized by all botanists, it is separated into two varieties in Minnesota: var. intermedius (a.k.a. Physocarpus intermedius) found in our central woodlands and southeastern bluff country, characterized by spreading stellate hairs on the fruits, and var. opulifolius found along the rocky cliffs and stream banks of the Arrowhead region which has smooth fruit. Var. opulifolius is also noted as having larger leaves than var. intermedius, and larger clusters with up to 50 flowers, where var. intermidius clusters have 15 to 20 flowers. Ninebark is a very durable landscape shrub with numerous cultivars selected on leaf color (gold or red), shrub size (dwarf) and flower cluster size.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Falls Creek SNA, Washington County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin, Anoka and Kanabec counties. Other photos courtesy Heather Holm.


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

Posted by: Mathew - Eden Prairie
on: 2016-06-01 17:07:31

Found by the boat launch near the beach at Bryant Lake Park.

Posted by: Todd Ronning - Two Harbors
on: 2019-04-26 15:20:54

Found along Lake Superior shoreline in Split Rock State Park, near the foot of Day Hill.

Posted by: mary erickson - bemidji
on: 2019-08-15 20:28:08

I saw MANY of these bushes by the Split Rock Light House on August 14, 2019.

Posted by: Susan Gangl - Minneapolis
on: 2022-05-19 20:07:58

Just bought two "Ninebark Lemon Candy" at Bachman's. Hope they thrive!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-05-20 08:26:54

Susan, you purchased a cultivar, which probably won't have the same benefit to insects and wildlife that the straight species does. It is best to purchase native plants from a native plant specialist.

Posted by: Molly - Park rapids/Hubbard county
on: 2022-07-03 09:51:07

Discovered in my shrub line. We took out all the buckthorn and everything else has since flourished. First year it bloomed!

Posted by: Dave Lindholm - Wyanette Township, Isanti County
on: 2022-11-04 06:53:20

This shrub is large and still has leaves late in season 11/4/2022. Seems to be the only one on our property. Are the seeds viable?

Posted by: John Lawrey - Stoney Point
on: 2024-07-14 23:16:42

Plentiful along the whole shoreline with a native potentilla and bluebells.

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