Wildflower Tales-Ninebark


“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir


IMG_3209Technically this last Wildflower Tale post is not about a flower, but is about a native shrub.  Physocarpus opulifolius or Common ninebark is part of the Rose Family (Rosaceae).  The ninebark that I grow (and pictured here) is one of the newer cultivars, ‘Diabolo’.

 This upright, spreading shrub’s interest comes from its peeling bark.  The bark continues to peel during the growing season revealing new bark underneath that is a slightly different color.  It is said the name ‘ninebark’ comes from the idea that this shrub has nine layers of bark although this has never been scientifically proven.  It is a wonderful shrub for winter interest.

With the the introduction of purple-leafed cultivars, like ‘Diabolo’, this shrub has become a must-have in the landscape. Both the IMG_4159green-leaved species shrub and the cultivars have wonderful coarsely lobed leaves.  The green leaf species changes to a yellow color in fall while the burgundy leaf cultivars become a lovely red (pictured right).

This shrub is beautiful enough to use in any landscape, and even in place of trees if you are looking for a fast growing screen.  So even though it is not a wildflower, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme to showcase this native shrub.


Growing Conditions

Ninebark is one of the easiest shrubs I have grown.  It survives and thrives in my cold , snowy climate. The only problem I have ever noticed is the occasional powdery mildew if we have especially extended wet period and the shrubs grow too close together.

IMG_1975Ninebark grows in many soil types from hard clay and rocky soils to loamy average, even dry soil making it drought tolerant.  And it even likes wet sites in sun to part shade.

Ninebark can grow quite large, 5 to 8 feet, so we prune it back to about 4 feet high right after it flowers.  Pruning it later will cause a loss of flowers next year as it flowers on old wood.  It can even be cut almost to the ground in winter every 5 or more years.   Ninebark likes to have old and damaged wood removed as this rejuvenates the shrub especially coaxing more flowers to bloom.

Ninebark benefits from top dressing it with compost and organic mulch such as leaves, wood or pine needles.

Ninebark can be propagated through cuttings or planting seeds in the fall.


Where Are They FoundIMG_3208

Physocarpus opulifolius can be used as a screen or erosion control on hillsides and banks.  Perfect for a native plant garden too.  Common ninebark is native to eastern North America.

It is found along streams banks, rocky hillsides, woodland edges and in moist thickets.



Benefits to Wildlife

The pinkish, white flowers that pop out in spring attract pollinators and butterflies.  Rabbits and deer tend to avoid the IMG_1971bark, but I have found deer nibbling on new leaf growth.

Birds enjoy the seeds in late summer and fall.  I  hardly noticed the seed heads as the birds usually devoured them quickly.  The shrub also provides a great nesting site for songbirds.  We have found sparrows nesting in ours.



Folklore and Tales

As a native plant, ninebark was either thought to be poisonous or medicinal.


Native American tribes, including our local Iroquois, used the inner bark as a laxative, analgesic, remedy for TB, to help with urination, abscesses and an gynecological aid especially to help with fertility.   The wood was also used as a poultice to treat sores.

In the Language of Flowers, ninebark does not have a specific meaning.  But as it is related to the hawthorn tree and the rose family, the meanings can be extended to ninebark.  Hawthorn is a symbol of hope and roses a symbol of love.


I hope you have enjoyed the wildflowers I have showcased each month in 2013.  You can find a complete list with links to all the posts below.



“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt


Check out other posts in the series, Wildflower Tale:

November:  Cardinal Flower

October:  Hardy Hibiscus

September:  Twinleaf

August-Anise Hyssop

July-Joe Pye



April-Shooting Stars

March-Common Yarrow


January-Virginia Bluebell


Next up on the blog:  On Monday, it will be time to reveal some new plans for Gardens Eye View and me.  Then it will be the first Monday of the month in our New Year.  I hope you will continue to follow in 2014, and I thank you for your readership.

I wrote a guest post over at Vision and Verb.  I hope you will visit this wonderful website of women writers.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my latest post.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

sharetheloveI am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

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All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.