Saponaria officinalis is a perennial herb to 60 cm tall, colonial from rhizomes, stems stout, nodes swollen, oftren purplish near top.
Leaves opposite elliptic, about 8 cm long, 3 cm wide, with 3 palmate veins, stalkless, often semi-evergreen, becoming partly purplish, viens whitish below; inflorescence crowded, to 15 cm long.
Flowers white to pinkish, radially symmetrical, fragrant, 2 cm, petals 5, narrowed at base (clawed), notched at broad tips; calyx elongate-cylindrical, papery; 10 stamens, 2 styles, conspicuous; inflorescence of dense clusters.
Fruit a dry capsule with 4 teeth, opening to release seeds; blooming and fruiting July-Oct. Seeds eaten by some birds (Martin et al. 1951).
Wetland status: FACU-.
Frequency in NYC: Occasional.
Habitat: Open or part shaded roadsides and meadows, dry fill, sandy soil.
Notes: Plants contain saponins, chemicals with soap-like properties. Winter plant pale tan with congested inflorescence branches and capsules.