My watch list  



Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Saponaria
Species: S. officinalis
Binomial name
Saponaria officinalis

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is a vespertine flower, and a common perennial plant from the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). Other common names are Bouncing Bet and Sweet William.

The Latin name is derived from the toxic substance saponin, contained in the roots. It starts producing a lather when in contact with water. The epithet officinalis indicates its medicinal functions. However, it acquired its common name through utility in cleaning.

  Soapwort's native range extends throughout Europe to western Siberia. It grows in cool places at low or moderate elevations under hedgerows and along the shoulders of roadways.

The plants possesses leafy, unbranched stems (often tinged with red) grow in patches, attaining a height of 70 cm. The broad, lanceolate, sessile leaves are opposite and between 4 and 12 cm long. It's sweetly scented flowers are radially symmetrical and pink, or sometimes white. Each of the five flat petals have two small scales in the throat of the corolla. They are about 2.5 cm wide. They are arranged in dense, terminal clusters on the main stem and its branches. The long tubular calyx has five pointed red teeth.

In the northern hemisphere soapwort blooms from May to September, and in the southern hemisphere October to March.

Internal use

Soapwort has various medicinal functions as an expectorant and laxative, but care should be taken when used as saponins may be toxic. An overdose can cause nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting.

Despite its toxic potential, soapwort finds culinary use as an emulsifier in the commercial preparation of tahini halva,[1] and in brewing to create beer with a good "head". In India, the rhizome is used as a galactagogue.[2]


  1. ^ Seasoning Savvy: How to Cook With Herbs, Spices, and Other Flavorings By Alice Arndt, p.215
  2. ^ Purple Sage page on Soapwort
  • Media related to Soapwort from the Wikimedia Commons.
Wikiversity has bloom time data for Saponaria officinalis on the Bloom Clock
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Soapwort". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE