E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Physocarpus capitatus (Pursh) Kuntze
Pacific ninebark
Rosaceae (Rose family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Virginia Skilton  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #25078)

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Distribution of Physocarpus capitatus
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Species Information

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Medium to tall shrub, 1-4 m tall; branches erect to arching, angled, smooth to minutely star-shaped-hairy when young, eventually with brown, shredding bark.
Alternate, deciduous, the stalks 1-3 cm long, the blades egg- to heart-shaped in outline, 3-10 cm long, palmately 3- or 5-lobed, the lobes irregularly double-toothed, deeply veined, shiny dark green above, paler and with abundant star-shaped hairs below.
Inflorescences dense, terminal, half-rounded clusters of numerous stalked flowers, the stalks woolly; corollas white, saucer-shaped, the petals 5, nearly circular, 3-5 mm long; calyces densely star-shaped-hairy, 5-lobed, the lanceolate lobes about 3 mm long, somewhat bent back; ovaries superior; stamens about 30, pink.
Follicles, 3 to 5, barely joined at the base, inflated, 7-11 mm long, reddish, mostly smooth; seeds 1 to 4 per follicle, pear-shaped, yellowish, hardened, shiny.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Red
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to wet streamside thickets, forest edges, open forests, margins of lakes and marshes, clearings and roadsides in the lowland to montane zones; frequent in SW BC, locally frequent in SE BC; N to AK and S to N ID and CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

Dwarf Pacific Ninebark

Pacific ninebark is a large shrub frequently reaching four meters in height, but the dwarf mutant grows to be only about one-half meter in height, with horizontal spreading branches. Such dwarf mutants may involve a mutation affecting the normal growth hormones in the plant, or they could affect some biosynthetic pathway that is necessary for normal growth. Despite its small size, the mutant produces normal leaves and flowers.

Source: Extracted from Griffiths and Ganders, 1983, Wildflower Genetics: A Field Guide for British Columbia and the Northwest.


Ecological Framework for Physocarpus capitatus

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 223 1325
Slope Gradient (%) 0 6 90
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
35 274 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 5 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CDF(13), CWH(66), ICH(4), IDF(3), PP(2)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, Western North American dciduous shrub distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in wet cool temperate and cool mesothermal climates on very moist to wet, nitrogen-rich soils (Moder and Mull humus forms); its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation and continentality. Scattered in semi­open or open-canopy forests on water-receiving and water­collecting sites, typically on fine-textured, gleyed alluvial soils with fluctuating ground­water table. Usually associated with Cornus sericea and Rubus spectabilis. Characteristic of alluvial floodplain forests.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool temperate & cool mesothermal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Physocarpus opulifolius (L.) Maxim., orth. cons.
Physocarpus opulifolius var. tomentellus (Ser.) B. Boivin

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

Species References

Griffiths, Anthony J. F. and Fred R. Ganders. 1983. Wildflower Genetics: A Field Guide for British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Flight Press, Vancouver.

General References