(Caenothus herbaceous), is also known as Red Root New Jersey Tea, Prairie Red root, or Narrow Leaved New Jersey Tea. This native deciduous shrub grows 2-3 ft tall and does best in medium to dry, alkaline, well-draining soils in full sun. Native American tribes made a medicinal tea from the dried leaves. A red dye can be made from the roots, hence the common name prairie redroot.
Butterflies and other insect pollinators are attracted to this plant; it is a host plant for the mottled duskywing and spring azure butterflies. Birds eat the seeds and use it for cover and nesting habitat. Deer and rabbits readily browse this plant.
The livestock palatability rating is Fair.
Once established, Caenothus herbaceous is a drought tolerant, bushy shrub typically growing to around knee high. Red Root has a deep and extensive root system that should not be disturbed once established. Some light shade is tolerated, but it prefers full sun. In the garden, it prefers dry and sunny locations with good drainage. Also useful for hard-to-grow areas such as dry rocky slopes and banks. Similar to New Jersey Tea but with earlier blooms and narrower leaves. Plant in well-drained soil and protect young plants from deer and rabbits if necessary. Avoid disturbing roots of established plants.
This species is native to glades, rocky prairie slopes, and sandy, loess hills in the central United States. It is able to fix atmospheric nitrogen.