|Photo by the Atlas of Florida Plants Database|
|Division:||Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants|
|Class:||Magnoliopsida - Dicots|
|Natural range of Ceanothus americanus from USDA NRCS Plants Database.|
- 1 Taxonomic Notes
- 2 Description
- 3 Distribution
- 4 Ecology
- 5 Conservation, cultivation, and restoration
- 6 Cultural use
- 7 Photo Gallery
- 8 References and notes
Synonyms: Ceanothus intermedius Pursh
Varieties: Ceanothus americanus Linnaeus var. intermedius (Pursh) Torrey & A. Gray; Ceanothus americanus Linnaeus var. americanus; C. americanus Linnaeus var. pitcheri Torrey & A. Gray
C. americanus is a perennial shrub of the Rhamnaceae family native to North America that usually reaches a height of about 3 feet tall, but can reach up to 5 feet.The leaves are alternate, oblong-ovate in shape, the underside of which is light green and covered with white fine hairs, and the margins vary from smooth to finely or slightly serrate, and have short petioles with 3 conspicuous palmate veins. The flowers are long stalked and clustered on the axils of upper leaves with individual flowers having a long slender tube that is terminated in five folded sepals. The hatchet-shaped petals spread outward when the calyx opens, and have a large pistil with 5 stamens that have dark grey colored anthers. The fruit is a drupe that forms in sets of 3 that slit into 3 carpels each containing an elliptical, smooth coated, and brown seed. The root system is a deeply anchored taproot that is stout and reddish in color.
While it is more commonly found along the coastal plains of the eastern United States and Canada, C. americanus can be found inland as far west as Louisiana. 
This species as well as others in the Ceanothus genus are nitrogen-fixing plants, meaning they have a mutualism with bacteria in the soil to process nitrogen found in the air and change it into a form useful for plants. This symbiosis is conducted through nodules in the roots of the plant to create a suitable environment for the bacteria.
The C. americanus is largely found in in sandy soil within woodlands and prairies.  Specimens have been collected from sand in open savanna, well drained ridges and slopes, dry sand in loam in pine-oak forests, and in open pine land.  Soils that it can be found on include well-drained and mesic loam, sand, or limey soils, sandy loam, sandy, limestone-based, and medium loamy soil. It is considered a characteristic species of the shortleaf pine-oak-hickory woodlands community. C. americanus had reduced occurence in response to soil disturbance by agricultural practices in South Carolina's coastal plains. It has shown resistance to regrowth in reestablished pine woodlands that were disturbed by agriculture.
Ceanothus americanus is an indicator species for the Clayhill Longleaf Woodlands community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).
C. americanus has been observed flowering between April and July with peak inflorescence in May. 
Seed bank and germination
For propagation, seeds should be planted in late fall or early winter for best results. Other methods include scarification by soaking the seeds in hot water and then in cooling water for at least 24 hours, and stratifying seeds between 60 and 90 days at 41 degrees.
C. americanus has been observed in annually burned pineland savannas. It has a high tolerance to drought and fire is a management technique for the spread of the species. It is adapted to fire through being topkilled yet vigorously resprouts in response to fire from the undamaged rootstock. With reoccurring fire, it can become quite a dominant species along with prairie grasses. It also has the ability to colonize burned sites where it was absent or rare before the fire. Seasonality of burn does not seem to matter much, but one study found winter burns to have the most abundance of the species. Another study found that C. americanus produces the most flower stems with annual burning regiments as well as late season burns, and flower stems were significantly low after early season and growing season burns.
Bees may collect pollen from the plant and other insects such as butterflies and moths may just collect nectar. It is a species of special value to native bees since it attracts such a large number. Known pollinators of C. americanus include Apis mellifera, Bombus griseocollis (family Apidae), Bombus impatiens (family Apidae), Ceratina dupla, Hylaeus mesillae, Hylaeus affinislmodestus, Augochlorella aurata, and Lasioglossum foveolatum. The Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) has also been observed to visit the plant for nectar, and flies in the Syrphidae and Tachinidae (Diptera) families have been collected on the flowers. Additionally, C. americanus has been observed to host pollinators from the family Andrenidae such as Andrena alleghaniensis, A. brevipalpis, A. commoda, A. crataegi, A. cressonii, A. nivalis, A. spiraeana, A. thaspii, Calliopsis andreniformis and Pseudopanurgus pauper. This species is also visited by bees from the Apidae family such as Bombus bimaculatus, Ceratina mikmaqi and C. strenua, plasterer bees from of the Colletidae family such as Colletes brevicornis, C. brevicornis, C. eulophi, Hylaeus affinis, H. illinoisensis, H. mesillae and H. modestus, and sweat bees from the Halictidae family such as Agapostemon splendens, Augochlorella persimilis, Halictus rubicundus, Lasioglossum cinctipes, L. coreopsis, L. floridanum, L. imitatum, L. lineatulum, L. pilosum, L. tegulare, L. vierecki, Sphecodes atlantis, and S. heraclei.
Herbivory and toxicology
C. americanus is also frequented by skippers from the Hesperiidae family such as Achalarus lyciades, Oligoria maculata, Pompeius verna and Urbanus proteus, as well as gossamer-winged butterflies such as Cupido comyntas (family Lycaenidae), true bugs such as Lygaeus turcicus (family Lygaeidae), leafcutting bees from the family Megachilidae such as Heriades carinata, Hoplitis spoliata, H. truncata, and Megachile mendica, bees such as Macropis ciliata (family Melittidae), assasin bugs such as Pselliopus cinctus (family Reduviidae), shield bugs such as Corimelaena pulicaria (family Thyreocoridae), and froghoppers such asAphrophora saratogensis (family Cercopidae).
C. americanus averages to 10-25% of the diet for large mammals, and 2-5% of the diet for terrestrial birds. The leaves are browsed on by rabbit, deer, and elk, and the fruit is eaten by quail and turkey. It is a larval host for the spring azure (Celastrina ladon), the summer azure (Celestina neglecta), and the mottled duskywing (Erynnis martialis). As well, it is a host plant for the New Jersey tea inchworm (Apodrepanulatrix liberaria), the broad-lined erastria (Erastria coloraria), and moths in the Stigmella genus. The mottled skipper (Erynnis martialis) is a specialist for this plant species. It also supports conservation biological control through attracting predatory or parasitoid insects that in turn prey on pest insects.
Diseases and parasites
This species can acquire leaf spot and powdery mildew, but foliar disease is not really a problem for this particular species. C. americanus is a host species for Jepson's dodder (Cuscuta jepsonii).
Conservation, cultivation, and restoration
C. americanus is listed as threatened by the Maine Department of Conservation. For management that is interested in promoting the species, fire regiments is the best tool. This particular species cannot be exposed to temperatures below negative 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Historically, Native American tribes in the Missouri River region utilized the leaves to make tea and the roots as fuel on their hunting trips. Other tribes in the Great Lakes Bioregion acclaimed it to have great success for treatment of bowel issues. Medicinally, New Jersey tea was used by physicians due to it being a strong astringent, and recently was discovered to have a blood-clotting agent within the roots of the plant.
The leaves of C. americanus were used as a substitute for tea leaves during the American Revolution, and were useful in treating sore throat. Native peoples used the roots in washes for cancers and syphilis, and other parts of the plant for treating gonorrhea, dysentery, and eye problems in children.
References and notes
- USDA Plant Database
- [Thirty-Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, to the secretary of the Smithsonian institution, 1911-1912]
- Weakley, A.S. 2020. Flora of the Southeastern United States. Edition of 20 October 2020. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- [] Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Accessed: April 2, 2019
- Wynia, R.L. 2010. Plant fact sheet for New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Manhattan Plant Materials Center. Manhattan, KS 66502.
- Weakley, A. S. (2015). Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Herbarium.
- URL: http://herbarium.bio.fsu.edu. Last accessed: June 2018. Collectors: Andre F. Clewell, Ro.K. Godfrey, R. Komarek, Loran C. Anderson, Bill Boothe, Marcia Boothe, Annie Schmidt. States and counties: Florida (Leon, Liberty, Wakulla, Washington) Georgia (Thomas, Grady)
- Clewell, A. F. (2013). "Prior prevalence of shortleaf pine-oak-hickory woodlands in the Tallahassee red hills." Castanea 78(4): 266-276.
- Brudvig, L.A. and E.I. Damchen. (2011). Land-use history, historical connectivity, and land management interact to determine longleaf pine woodland understory richness and composition. Ecography 34: 257-266.
- Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
- Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. www.gilnelson.com/PanFlora/ Accessed: 18 MAY 2018
- Hurteau, M. D. (2006). Plant Guide: New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus. N.R.C.S. United States Department of Agriculture. Davis, CA.
- Robertson, K.M. Unpublished data collected from Pebble Hill Fire Plots, Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville, Georgia.
- Hutchinson, T. (2005). Fire and teh herbaceous layer of eastern oak forests. F. S. United States Department of Agriculture, Northern Research Station: 136-149.
- Kush, J. S., et al. (2000). Understory plant community response to season of burn in natural longleaf pine forests. Proceedings 21st Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference. Fire and forest ecology: innovative silviculture & vegetation management, Tallahassee, FL, Tall Timbers Research, Inc.
- Pavlovic, N. B., et al. (2011). "Short-term effects of burn season on flowering phenology of savanna plants." Plant Ecology 212: 611-625.
- Grundel, R., et al. (2011). "A survey of bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) of the Indiana Dunes and Northwest Indiana, USA." Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 84(2): 105-138.
- Grundel, R., et al. (2000). "Nectar plant selection by the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore." The American Midland Naturalist 144(1): 1-10.
- Tooker, J. F., et al. (2006). "Floral host plants of Syrphidae and Tachinidae (Diptera) of central Illinois." Annals of the Entomological Society of America 99(1): 96-112.
- Discoverlife.org 
- Discoverlife.org 
- Miller, J.H., and K.V. Miller. 1999. Forest plants of the southeast and their wildlife uses. Southern Weed Science Society.
- Wagner, D. L., et al. (2003). "Shrubland Lepidoptera of southern New England and southeastern New York: ecology, conservation, and management." Forest Ecology and Management 185: 95-112.
- Costea, M., et al. (2006)."Taxonomy of the Cuscuta indecora (Convolvulaceae) complex in North America." SIDA Contributions to Botany 22(1): 209-226.
- Korchmal, Arnold & Connie. 1973. A Guide to the Medicinal Plants of the United States. The New York Times Book Company, New York.