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The Soap Bush!

When I worked in state parks in New York, I frequently conducted guided tours of parklands to school, scouts and the general public. One of the shrubs I featured in the early summer was sweet pepperbush when this plant bloomed. I tore off a flower and demonstrated how it became an abrasive soap to wash you hands with. With a little water from the nearby stream and the flower, I rubbed the concoction between the palms of my hands and like magic, it foamed into a soapy fluid that cleansed my hands.

I always found this shrub growing along the edge of the wetlands just out of reach of the floodwaters. Its prolific fragrant blooms attract many species of bees including bumblebees and honey bees. It is a shrub that thrives in the eastern U.S. from Texas to Maine and it is often planted in native gardens.

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