Habitat: Central and Southern Europe. Grows well in English gardens.
Plant Description: Saponaria is a straggling, hairless perennial herb, growing up to 80cm. The jointed, creeping, branched, cylindrical rhizome gives rise to numerous erect, glabrous, sterile or flower-bearing stems. The simple non-flowering stems have oval to elongated and pointed opposite leaves, the lower ones on short petioles and the upper ones sessile. The flower-bearing stems are sparsely branched and leafy in the lower part terminating in rich panicles of flowers. The large flowers, which appear from June to September, are in a compact inflorescence; the cylindrical calyx is often reddish, the petals pale pink. There are ten stamens and the fruit is an oval capsule. Saponaria prefers damp sandy soil, hedgerows, and cultivated or disturbed ground. It can tolerate drought. It grows from Belgium, north Germany and central Russia southwards. A stout herbaceous perennial with a stem growing in the writers garden to 4 or 5 feet high. Leaves lanceolate, slightly elliptical, acute, smooth, 2 or 3 inches long and 1/3 inch wide. Large pink flowers, often double in paniculate fascicles; calyx cylindrical, slightly downy; five petals, unguiculate; top of petals linear, ten stamens, two styles; capsule oblong, one-celled, flowering from July till September. No odour, with a bitter and slightly sweet taste, followed by a persistent pungency and a numbing sensation in the mouth.
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