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Pakistan | Family List | Caryophyllaceae

21. Saponaria L., Sp. Pl. 1753. Gen. Pl. 582. 1754; Boiss., Fl. Or. 1:523. 1867; Simmler, Monogr. der Gattung, Saponaria Benkschr. Akad. Wiss. Wien. Math. –Nat. Kl. 85:433-509. 1910; Hedge in Davis, Fl. Turk. 2:138. 1967.


Annual or perennial herbs, blabrous or hairy with ± glandular hairs. Leaves linear-lanceolate, spathulate or ovate-elliptic. Flowers in cymes or panicles, rarely solitary. Bracts herbaceous. Bracteoles absent. Calyx narrowly cylindrical, 5-toothed, many nerved, without commissural nerves. Petals 5. Coronal scales present or absent. Stamens 10. Styles 2. Carpophore present or absent (absent in our species). Capsule oblong to ovoid, dehiscing apically by 4 valves or teeth. Seeds reniform, tuberculate.

A genus of about 30 species, found in temperate Europe, but mainly in the Mediterranean region. Represented in Pakistan by 2 native species. The genus is very closely related to Gypsophila but is distinguished by the cylindrical calyx, not campanulate and the absence of commissural veins.

The fleshy rhizomes and leaves of some species contain saponin and are used as a substitute for soap.

Cultivated species

Saponaria officinalis L., Sp. Pl. 408. 1753; Stewart, Ann. Cat. Vasc. Pl. W. Pak. & Kashm. 250. 1872.

Perennial with erect stems 30-70 cm and a creeping rhizome. Leaves oblong. elliptic, acute to acuminate distinctly 3-nerved. Flowers in compact terminal corymbose cymes. Calyx 18-22 mm, yellow-green, glabrous or pubescent, teeth ovate-acuminate. Petals white or pink, c. 30 mm, limb obovate, claw narrow. Coronal scales present. Capsule ovoid, included in calyx.

Lectotype: Hb. Clifford 165(BM).

Distribution: Cosmopolitan.

Soapwort or Bouncing Bet is cultivated in gardens. The rhizomes which are rich in saponin are used as a substitute for soap.

1 Leaves linear-lanceolate. Calyx scabrid or rugose   1 Saponaria griffithiana
+ Leaves obovate-spathulate to ovate elliptic. Calyx densely glandular-villous   2 Saponaria subrosularis

Lower Taxa

Related Synonym(s):


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