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New Jersey Tea Shrub

New Jersey Tea Shrub

New Jersey Tea Shrub

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) features glossy leaves, numerous bright white flowers and a mounding shape that make this compact shrub a popular garden member. Planted two to three feet apart it forms an attractive low growing hedge, and is an excellent choice for rocky hillsides and slopes, as well. New Jersey Tea requires a well-drained site. The deep tap root makes it very drought tolerant once established. With a slow to moderate growth rate the long-lived plants will mature in 2 to 3 years.The New Jersey Tea plant (Ceanothus americanus) does not tolerate juglone toxicity, a condition found in the environment beneath Black Walnut trees. The trees produce a chemical called hydrojuglone, which is found in the leaves, stems, fruit hulls, inner bark and roots. When exposed to the air or soil, hydrojuglone is oxidized into the chemical juglone. Juglone is toxic to many plants, but there are also plants that are resistant to the toxins. Our list of plants that can tolerate Juglone toxicity can be found here …A deciduous shrub that grows just 3' tall and is compact and rounded by nature. The dried leaves of New Jersey Tea make a flavorful tea that was popular during the Revolutionary War. Deep tree-like roots of this shrub make it drought-tolerant but difficult to move once established so choose your spot wisely. Light preference is full or part sun and medium-dry soil. Deer and rabbits do like this shrub, especially when it is young so protect new transplants in the early years. The beautiful white flowers attract many pollinators. New Jersey Tea is one of the host plants of the Spring Azure. A member of the Rhamnaceae (buckthorn) family, New Jersey tea will grow at a moderate pace, eventually reaching a mature height of 3 to 4 feet after about two seasons. The plant's unique name came about during the American Revolution. Tea was a bit scarce at the time (after all, imported tea tariffs helped lead to the start of the war), so a tea-like drink was made from the leaves of this shrub. Additionally, the blossoms and roots of the plant can also be used to make dyes. The plant is a great choice for use in a wildlife-friendly garden—hummingbirds like to visit the shrub frequently, as do various species of butterflies and moths. Since New Jersey tea forms large, sturdy roots, it's able to handle periods of drought well and is a good choice for soils that are sandy or rocky. Transplantation can be difficult, though, because of those roots so move it while it is young (if necessary) for the best results.For best results, plant your New Jersey tea in a soil mixture that is sandy, loamy, and well-draining. An acidic pH level is also preferred by the plant. That said, New Jersey tea is fairly adaptable to a variety of soil conditions—the most important factor you should be sure to maintain when it comes to your planting location is optimal drainage. The plant does not tolerate wet feet and is very susceptible to root rot. This shrub tends to form suckers as it grows and becomes established, so plan on pruning them away early if you do not want the plant to spread. However, the addition of suckers can actually be a useful feature if you are trying to quickly populate a wildlife or native garden. Other than that, your New Jersey tea plant should not need much other pruning, beyond removing any leaves or parts of the plant that look dying or diseased. If you want to do a little trimming, do so at the end of winter before the blossoming starts

New Jersey tea is a low bushy shrub rarely over two feet tall, at least in Minnesota. The lower stems are persistently woody with the upper herbaceaus branches dying back annually. It is only superficially similar in appearance to Narrow-leaved New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus herbaceus) which, as its name implies, has narrower leaves, more elliptic in shape with a taper at both ends of the leaf blade. It is also hairless throughout making the leaf surfaces shinier, and its clusters form above the uppermost leaf at the very tip of the seasonal branches, making them smaller and rounder. C. americanus also flowers about a month later than its narrow-leaved relative. Both inhabit similar dry or rocky, open habitats but they are rarely found growing in close proximity and C. herbaceus is less common and more restricted in range. History has it that during the American Revolution, colonists used it as a substitute for green tea, perhaps grumpily as it contains no caffeine. Though not universally recognized, there are 3 varieties of C. americanus, distinguished by geographic region as well as leaf hairiness or size; var. pitcheri, with hairs on both leaf surfaces, is the one found in Minnesota. Low-growing, Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea) is a bushy, upright, deciduous shrub boasting oval clusters of tiny, fragrant, white flowers in spring. Lasting over a moderately extended period, they rise from the leaf axils at the end of the new shoots. The flowers are a nectar source for hummingbirds, butterflies, and native bees. The foliage of broad-ovate, rich, glossy green leaves, 4 in. long (10 cm), with gray, hairy undersides, may develop yellowish hues in the fall. The dried leaves of this nitrogen-fixing shrub were considered one of the best substitutes for tea during the American Revolution. Extremely adaptable, this North American native species can withstand inhospitable conditions, including infertile, dry soils. A great shrub for use as a groundcover on banks and slopes and a nice addition to a butterfly gardenThe red roots and root bark of New Jersey tea are used by Native Americans in North America for infections of the upper respiratory tract. The leaves have a fresh scent of wintergreen and were later utilized by the European colonizers as a tea substitute and stimulating caffeine-free beverage. The root bark of the plant is used by herbalists today, and are used notably in remedies for problems of the lymph system. The root contains astringent tannins and a number of peptide alkaloids, including ceanothine A-E, pandamine, zizyphine, scutianine, and the adouetines. A second species in the genus occurs in Arkansas; namely, “inland New Jersey tea”, also called “redroot”, (Ceanothus herbaceus), which is known from a number of western and central counties. Although also a woody shrub, it was given the epithet “herbaceus” when it was described because it was mistakenly thought to be an herbaceous perennial. This species has narrower, glabrous leaves that are tapered at both ends. Smaller and more rounded or dome-shaped flower clusters occur terminally from the uppermost leaf axil of each stem. Inland New Jersey tea generally blooms a few weeks earlier than New Jersey tea. (Source: anps.org)

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