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Common Name: Smaller Red-Root
Ceanothus ovatus is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 1.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Eastern and Central N. America - western Maine and Quebec to Manitoba, south to Texas.
Sandy or rocky plains, prairies and slopes[
Prefers a warm sunny position but tolerates light shade[
]. Tolerates some lime, but will not succeed on shallow chalk[
Plants dislike root disturbance, they should be planted out into their permanent positions whilst still small[
Dislikes heavy pruning, it is best not to cut out any wood thicker than a pencil[
]. Any pruning is best carried out in the spring[
Fast growing, it flowers well when young, often in its second year from seed[
Closely related to C. americanus[
]. It hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[
Some members of this genus have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms, these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
The young leaves and flowers are steeped in boiling water for about 5 minutes. The resulting liquid is yellowish in colour and tastes similar to Oriental tea but is considered milder and sweeter[
A decoction of the roots has been used as a cough remedy[
A green dye is obtained from the flowers[
All parts of the plant are rich in saponins - when crushed and mixed with water they produce a good lather which is an effective and gentle soap[
]. This soap is very good at removing dirt, though it does not remove oils very well. This means that when used on the skin it will not remove the natural body oils, but nor will it remove engine oil etc[
] The flowers are a very good source, when used as a body soap they leave behind a pleasant perfume on the skin[
]. The developing seed cases are also a very good source of saponins[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 12 hours in warm water and then given 1 - 3 months stratification at 1°c[
]. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 2 months at 20°c[
]. One report says that the seed is best given boiling water treatment, or heated in 4 times its volume of sand at 90 - 120°c for 4 - 5 minutes and then soaked in warm water for 12 hours before sowing it[
]. The seed exhibits considerable longevity, when stored for 15 years in an air-tight dry container at 1 - 5°c it has shown little deterioration in viability[
]. The seed is ejected from its capsule with some force when fully ripe, timing the collection of seed can be difficult because unless collected just prior to dehiscence the seed is difficult to extract and rarely germinates satisfactorily[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, taken at a node[
], mid summer in a frame[
Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, 7 - 12 cm with a heel, early autumn in a cold frame[
]. The roots are quite brittle and it is best to pot up the callused cuttings in spring, just before the roots break[
]. Good percentage.