Two Great Locations, One Organization
Ninebark flowers

A ninebark flower cluster.

Ninebark leaves

The ninebark cultivar ‘Coppertina’ in the auhor’s garden.

Ninebark flower buds

The pearl-like unopened flowers of ninebark.

regular ninebark-Melissa McMasters

A ninebark flower cluster. Photo: Melissa McMasters.

The peonies are starting to bloom in Nichols Arboretum right now. While not native, peonies are tough plants, seemingly indestructible as they easily shrug off the coldest winters and come back to bloom year after year, decade after decade. Another plant that’s also in bloom at the moment and is just as tough—and native—is this week’s plant, common ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius).
The University of Michigan Herbarium records this zone 2 hardy woody shrub in every county in the Upper Peninsula and in most of the Lower Peninsula. In the wild it’s found along rivers and streams as well as in the UP on rocky ledges. Ninebark tolerates a wide range of soil types and conditions and is very cold hardy, so it’s a great plant to consider in your landscape.

A ninebark flower cluster.

Ninebark fruit-Tom Potterfield

Ripe ninebark fruit. Photo: Peter Dziuk.

Ninebark fruit-Tom Potterfield

Fall fruit of ninebark. Photo: Tom Potterfield.

regular ninebark-Melissa McMasters

Ninebark bark peeling away in strips.

The common name ninebark comes from the way the bark on mature stems peels away to reveal several different colors. The flowers form in corymbs (flat-topped clusters) and start out looking like pink-ish pearl brooches that open to puffs of pure-white five-petaled flowers. The author has native bee houses on his property and those bees love the ninebark flowers. Even hummingbirds are seen visiting the blooms. The flowers give way to bladder-like fruits that persist through the winter. Leafless winter branches expose the shreddy bark.
Left unchecked P. opulifolius develops arching, somewhat rangy stems. Prune right after flowering if desired or cut older stems near to the ground to control height. If you’ve visited a plant nursery lately you might have noticed the wide range of available ninebark cultivars, including wine-red, lime green, and coppery-orange. Pictured here is ‘Coppertina’, which leafs out orange and changes to a reddish color in the summer.
#nativeplantoftheweek #matthaeinichols #umichnature
Share