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Pacific Ninebark
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Physocarpus capitatus

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About Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) Physocarpus capitatus (Pacific Ninebark) is a species in the Rosaceae (Rose) family native to western North America from southern Alaska east to Montana and Utah, and south to central California. It is found in the Coast Ranges and the Sierras. It is a dense deciduous shrub growing to 1 to 2.5 meters tall. The name comes from the appearance of the bark, which is flaky, peeling away in many layers. The shrub has distinctive maple-like lobed leaves 3-14 centimeter long and broad, and ball-like clusters of small white flowers with five petals and numerous red-tipped stamens. The unique fruit is an inflated glossy red pod which turns dry and brown and then splits open to release seeds. It is most often found near streams in association with wetland-riparian vegetation. Near the coast and at higher elevations it can take full sun. At lower elevation inland locations it benefits from part shade and moisture. It's leaves change color in fall before dropping. The extensive root system is useful for retaining soil on slopes. It makes a very attractive shrub or small tree for central to northern California gardens.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
3.3 - 8.2 ft (1 - 2.5 m)

Max. Width
8 ft (2.4 m)


Growth Rate
Moderate, Fast

Winter Deciduous

Flower Color
White, Red

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Moist banks and north facing slopes, usually in wetland-riparian community, often in mixed woodland or forest, usually below 5,000 ft.

Shade, Part Shade

Elevation ?
4' - 8911'

Annual Precip. ?
16.2" - 113.6"

Summer Precip. ?
0.17" - 4.01"

Coldest Month ?
28.0° F - 51.0° F

Hottest Month ?
47.3° F - 77.2° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 23.93 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils as long as adequate moisture is present

Soil PH
5.0 - 7.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 5° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
Can be used with a wide variety of woodland and northern chaparral plants including Firs (Abies sp.), Pipevine (Aristolochia californica), Dogwood (Cornus sp.), Silk Tassel Bush (Garrya sp.), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), Sycamore (Platanus racemosa), Cottonwoods (Populus sp.), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Currant/Gooseberry (Ribes sp.), and Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)

Wildlife Attracted
Numerous pollinator insects are attracted to the flowers

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Low, Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Deep Organic

Can be pruned after leaves drop to achieve more upright habit and encourage vigorous leaf production in spring

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment. gives poor germination; 2-3 mos. stratification may improve germination. Easily propagated from stem cuttings.

Common uses
Hedges, Groundcovers, Deer Resistant

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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