Ceanothus herbaceus L.

prairie redroot

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Prairie redroot is a handsome, small shrub in the buckthorn family. It is considered endangered in Vermont, whereas some introduced populations occur in eastern Massachusetts. It produces rounded inflorescences of white flowers, which mature into triangular, black fruits. The fruit bases remain after the fruits have fallen. This shrub forms relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which help it grow.

Habitat

Meadows and fields, shores of rivers or lakes

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
Growth form
the plant is a shrub (i.e., a woody plant with several stems growing from the base)
Leaf type
the leaf blade is simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaves per node
there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Leaf duration
the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
armature on plant
the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns
Leaf blade length
20–60 mm
Leaf blade width
10–25 mm
Leaf stalk
the leaves have leaf stalks
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
Bark texture
the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
Twig winter color
  • brown
  • red
Bud scale number
there are two scales on the winter bud, and their edges meet
Show All Characteristics
  • Buds or leaf scars
    Bud scale number
    there are two scales on the winter bud, and their edges meet
    Bud scar shape (Fraxinus)
    NA
    Collateral buds
    there are no collateral buds on the sides of the branches
    Superposed buds
    there are no superposed buds on the branch
  • Flowers
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused to one another
    Enlarged sterile flowers
    there are no enlarged sterile flowers on the plant
    Flower petal color
    white
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Hairs on ovary (Amelanchier)
    NA
    Hypanthium present
    the flower has a hypanthium
    Inflorescence type
    • the inflorescence is a panicle (branched with the individual flowers on stalks)
    • the inflorescence is an umbel (with an axis so short it appears the flowers all originate from the same point)
    Number of pistils
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are separate
    Sepal cilia (Ilex)
    NA
    Stamen number
    • 4
    • 5
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    • black
    • blue
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    • the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    • the fruit is a drupe (fleshy, with a firm inner ovary wall that encloses a single seed)
    Nut with spines (Fagaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    there are no wings on the fruit
  • Glands or sap
    Sap color
    the sap is clear and watery
    Stalked glands on fruit (Rosa)
    NA
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is a shrub (i.e., a woody plant with several stems growing from the base)
  • Leaves
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade edges (Acer)
    NA
    Leaf blade hairs
    the hairs on the leaf blade are different from the choices given
    Leaf blade length
    20–60 mm
    Leaf blade scales
    there are no scales on the leaf blades
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is oblong (rectangular but with rounded ends)
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade translucent dots
    there are no translucent dots on the leaf blade
    Leaf blade width
    10–25 mm
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf lobe tips (Quercus)
    NA
    Leaf midrib glands
    the midrib of the leaf blade lacks glands on the upper surface
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk nectaries
    there are no nectaries on the leaf stalk
    Leaf teeth
    • the leaf blade margin is crenate (with rounded teeth) or crenulate (with tiny, rounded teeth)
    • the leaf blade margin is serrulate (with forward-pointing) or denticulate (with outward-pointing) with tiny teeth
    Leaf teeth hairs (Carya)
    NA
    Leaf type
    the leaf blade is simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Massachusetts
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • meadows or fields
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of an odor, or it has an unpleasant or repellant odor
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Aerial roots
    the plant has no aerial roots
    Bark texture
    the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
    Branch brittleness (willows only)
    NA
    Branch cross-section
    the branch is circular in cross-section, or it has five or more sides, so that there are no sharp angles
    First-year cane (Rubus)
    NA
    Twig papillae (Vaccinium species only)
    NA
    Twig winter color
    • brown
    • red
    Wings on branch
    the branch does not have wings on it
    armature on plant
    the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
absent
Maine
absent
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
absent
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Vermont
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)

Native to North America?

Yes and no (some introduced)

Sometimes Confused With

Ceanothus americanus:
leaf blades narrow-ovate to broad-ovate, 20-60 mm wide, and fruits 5-6 mm long (vs. C. herbaceous, with leaf blades elliptic to oblong or narrow-oblong, 10-25 mm wide, and fruits 4-5 mm long).

Synonyms

  • Ceanothus herbaceus L. var. pubescens (Torr. & Gray ex S. Wats.) Shinners
  • Ceanothus ovatus, auct. non Desf.
  • Ceanothus ovatus Desf. var. pubescens Torr. & Gray ex S. Wats.
  • Ceanothus pubescens (Torr. & Gray ex S. Wats.) Rydb. ex Small

Family

Rhamnaceae

Genus

Ceanothus

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

2.  Ceanothus herbaceus L. NC

prairie redroot. Ceanothus herbaceus L. var. pubescens (Torr. & Gray ex S. Wats.) Shinners; 
 C. ovatus, auct. non Desf.; C. ovatus Desf. var. pubescens Torr. & Gray ex S. Wats.; C. pubescens (Torr. & Gray ex S. Wats.) Rydb. ex Small • MA, VT. Sandy lake shores, banks, and fields.