New Jersey Tea

Any great native landscape should include some native shrubs. Shrubs provide a myriad of ecosystem services including hosts for larvae and nesting sights for birds. One great choice when looking for a native shrub is New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanushttp://bit.ly/1lX1k2T). Native to most of eastern North America, this hardy shrub is denizen of dry, open areas with sandy, rocky soils. It has an extensive root system, making it a great choice for erosion control on dry slopes. It also has the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, thus improving soil conditions! In early summer, New Jersey tea sends up countless sprays of densely clustered, white flowers. When in full bloom, this shrub is literally buzzing with pollinators. It has been said that the flowers attract certain types of bees that hummingbirds need to feed their growing chicks. Come fall, copious amounts of hard, round seeds are produced. These germinate well after a soak in boiling water. The kinds of places where New Jersey tea can be found in the wild tend to experience frequent fires. Due to its extensive root system, it will quickly recover from such disturbance. Though it is unlikely that it will experience fire on your property, this resilience is helpful in other ways. Though it is not immune to deer and rabbit browsing, in most cases New Jersey tea bounces back with flying colors after a run in with these hungry herbivores. The leaves of this species can be dried and steeped into a tea, which was quite popular during the Revolutionary War. Its close cousin, red root (Ceanothus ovatushttp://bit.ly/1lX1DuE) is also a great choice.

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