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Physocarpus capitatus is deciduous shrub, five to twenty feet tall with open, straggly, angled branches, and bark that exfoliates in long irregular strips. Leaves are alternate, simple, three to ten centimeters long, palmately three to five lobed and veined. Produces pompom-like flower cluster in the late spring. Grows best from hardwood cuttings, and is easy to propagate and can be live-staked. Can also be grown from seed but germination is spotty.
Streambanks, swamps, moist woods, and occasionally on drier shrubby sites. Sun to shade, best in acid soil, requires some watering. Propagates easily from cuttings. Common along stream banks, lake margins, swampy areas and in moist woods.
Has excellent soil-binding qualities as well as providing cover and nesting sites. Other species like deer and elk graze on the twigs and bears eat the berries.