physocarpus-capitatusCommon name: Pacific ninebark

Scientific name: Physocarpus capitatus

Plant family: Rosaceae

Description: The Ninebark is a deciduous shrub reaching up to 13 feet.  Leaves are alternate, 3-10 cm long, 3-5 lobed, have fine hairs on the bottom and serrated margins4Flowers have 5 petals, white, small, have pink stamens, grow in clusters, and appear in late April and last until July.  The Bark is reddish, papery, and can be peeled away in layers.[1],[2]

Habitat and range: Physocarpus capitatus prefers moist soil and partial shade. It ranges from Alaska down to southern California, west of the Cascades.[3]

Historical and contemporary uses: Pacific ninebark has been used medicinally as a laxative, and to treat gonorrhea and sores.  The Nuxalk and Coast Salish Native Americans use it this way by making a tea from the outer bark[1]. The bark is toxic so is also used to induce vomiting by many tribes including the HesquiatThe Kwakiutl and Saanich people use the root extract as a laxative. [3] This shrub has numerous material uses as well.  The Karok and Hesquiat people of British Columbia use the branches to make arrowswhile the bark was also soaked with Cedar bark to make a dark brown die.[3] The Cowichan have made knitting needles from the wood.[1]  Today, the Pacific Ninebark is used in restoration projects.  It provides good shelter and nesting sites for birds and mammals.  It isn’t palatable for most animals, which makes it immune to browsing habits.  It is fast growing and easily propagated.  Its fibrous roots make it a great stabilizer for riverbanks and wetland habitats.[4]

[1] Pojar, Jim, A. MacKinnon, and Paul B. Alaback. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska. Redmond, WA: Lone Pine Pub., 1994. Print.

[2] “Pacific Ninebark.” Washington Native Plant Society. 08 Nov. 2007. Web. <>.

[3] “Physocarpus Capitatus.” Native American Ethnobotany. University of Michigan- Dearborn. Web. <>.

[4] “Plant Fact Sheet; Pacific Ninebark.” USDA Plants Database. USDA NRCS, 28 June 2007. Web. <>.