Shrub to 1 m tall Leaves: alternate, stalked, dark green and sometimes hairy above, paler and hairy beneath, 2 - 6 cm long, 1 - 2 cm wide, narrow oblong to elliptic with a wedge-shaped to rounded base and a blunt to slightly pointed tip, toothed, with three major veins radiating from base. Inflorescence: tightly branched (panicle), borne at the end of the current year's growth on a stalk rarely reaching 5 cm, 1 - 3 cm long, semi-circular to short egg-shaped. Flowers: with five white, clawed petals resembing tiny ladels and five stamens. Fruit: a dark brown, round, three-parted berry-like capsule about 3 - 5 mm wide, with three shiny reddish brown nutlets. Twigs: slender, green to brown and hairy when young, becoming brown to dark gray and smooth.
Similar species: Ceanothus americanus has mostly egg-shaped leaves, and the inflorescences are borne on long stems arising from the leaf axils.
Flowering: late May to early June
Habitat and ecology: Rare in the Chicago Region, found in low dunes and sandy soils near Lake Michigan.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: Ceanothus herbaceus is sometimes grown as an ornamental and has a symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Insects are attracted by the flowers, deer eat the leaves, and birds eat the fruit. Native Americans once made the leaves into a tea and used the large woody roots as fuel on bison hunts and when firewood was scarce. Colonists used the leaves as a substitute for black tea after the Boston Tea Party to support patriotism during the American Revolution. A dye is made from the dark red roots.
Etymology: Ceanothus comes from an ancient Greek name for a different plant. Herbaceus means "not woody," referring to the small leafy branches of the new growth.
Author: The Morton Arboretum
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Our only specimens come from the low dunes along Lake Michigan between Pine and Miller in Lake County.
Bushy shrub to 1 m; lvs typically oblong to elliptic, varying to lance-oblong or oblanceolate-oblong, 2-6 נ1-2 cm, obtuse or subacute, the lateral nerves never naked and often arising unevenly 1-3 mm above the base of the lf; panicles several to many, terminating the leafy branches of the season, on peduncles rarely to 5 cm, hemispheric to short-ovoid, the component umbels closely set; fr 4-5 mm. Sandy or rocky soil, prairies, and plains; a few stations in Vt., N.Y., and Que.; Mich. to Minn. and e. Mont., s. to nw. Ind., Ark., and Tex. May, June. (C. ovatus; C. pubescens)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.