Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for New Jersey Tea - Ceanothus americanus   L.
Members of Rhamnaceae:
Only member of Ceanothus in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Rhamnales » Family Rhamnaceae
AuthorL.
DistributionEssentially throughout the western 80% of the state, though apparently absent in some far eastern counties. No records for most counties surrounding Albemarle and Pamlico sounds.

This is a classic Eastern North America species, in terms of range. It ranges from southern Canada to the Gulf Coast, and from the Atlantic Coast to the eastern edge of the Great Plains.
AbundanceGenerally common, or better stated as “widespread and frequently seen” over nearly all of the state, but rare in the eastern Coastal Plain. It is not seen in large colonies or extensive stands, but observers encounter it often in at least small numbers.
HabitatThis species favors upland hardwood or mixed forests, primarily along the margins or in openings or light gaps. It can occur in rocky woods or in somewhat sandy soil, but it favors rather mesic to dry clay soils with partial sun. It can occur in thickets and roadsides, often growing along roadbanks.
See also Habitat Account for Ceanothus Thickets
PhenologyBlooms in May and June; fruits in June and July.
IdentificationThis is a rather small deciduous shrub that grows mainly to just 2-3 feet high. It has ovate to nearly elliptic, alternate leaves that average about 2 inches long. The leaves are finely serrate and show three strong veins from the base, with the outer two strongly curving. The deeply sunken veins -- the leaves have other curving veins coming off the midvein -- give the leaves a distinctive look (that is hard to “portray” in words). Thankfully, by May the plants are full of thimble-sized and shaped inflorescences on the branch tips, and these have an abundance of tiny white flowers. Thus, for much of the growing season the species can be easily identified by its flowers and fruit. These flowers are quite conspicuous at a distance, and many plants are seen from a passing car as they grow along a wooded border or a roadbank.
Taxonomic CommentsRecent references tend to split the species into several varieties. Two of them are found in NC – the nominate var. americanus found in the mountains, Piedmont, and parts of the Coastal Plain; and var. intermedius, found mostly in the Coastal Plain and parts of the Piedmont, mainly in sandier soil than var. americanus.

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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USACE-agcp
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