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Ceanothus americanus facts for kids

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New Jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus1.jpg
Scientific classification
  • C. a. var. pitcheri Torr. & A.Gray
  • C. a. var. intermedius (Pursh) K.Koch
  • C. intermedius Pursh
  • C. ovatus Desf.

Ceanothus americanus is a species of Ceanothus shrub native to North America. Common names include New Jersey tea, Jersey tea ceanothus, variations of red root (red-root; redroot), mountain sweet (mountain-sweet; mountainsweet), and wild snowball. New Jersey tea was a name coined during the American Revolution, because its leaves were used as a substitute for imported tea.


Ceanothus americanus is a shrub growing between 18 and 42 in (0.46 and 1.07 m) high, having many thin branches. Its root system is thick with fibrous root hairs close to the surface, but with stout, burlish, woody roots that reach deep into the earth—root systems may grow very large in the wild, to compensate after repeated exposures to wildfires. White flowers grow in clumpy inflorescences on lengthy, axillary peduncles. Fruits are dry, dehiscent, seed capsules.


Ceanothus americanus is common on dry plains, prairies, or similar untreed areas, on soils that are sandy or rocky. It can often be located in forest clearings or verges, on banks or lakeshores, and on gentle slopes.


Ceanothus americana is found in Canada, in Ontario and Quebec. In the U.S., it is found in Alabama; Arkansas; Connecticut; Delaware; northern and central Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Louisiana; Maine (in Oxford and Penobscot counties); Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Nebraska; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; North and South Carolina; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; eastern and central Texas; Vermont; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Virginia


During winter in the Ozarks of Missouri, its twigs are sought as food by the local deer; and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), in particular, will browse C. americanus year round.

The flowers of C. americanus are used as food by (and the shoots host the larvae of) butterflies in the genus Celastrina, including spring azure, and summer azure; and by Erynnis martialis (mottled duskywing) and Erynnis icelus (dreamy duskywing).

Ceanothus americanus seeds are consumed by wild turkeys and quail.

Constituents and medicinal use

The red roots and root bark of New Jersey tea are used by North American Indians for infections of the upper respiratory tract. The leaves have a fresh scent of wintergreen and were later utilized by the white 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. They have a mild hypotensive effect. Root and flower extracts can also be used as dyes.

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