Physocarpus opulifolius


Illustration of ninebark leaves, flowers, fruits.
Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius).
Paul Nelson

Rosaceae (roses)


Ninebark is an attractive shrub with wide-spreading, graceful, recurved branches and bark peeling off in conspicuous thin strips.

Leaves are alternate, simple, oval, 2–4 inches long; 3- or 5-lobed, tip pointed, double-toothed edges; green in summer, yellow to pink to bronze in fall.

Bark is brown, peeling into long, thin, papery strips giving it a shaggy appearance, exposing reddish or pale brown inner bark.

Twigs are brown to yellowish, smooth, flexible, bark peeling off in thin strips.

Flowers May–June, in dense, flat-topped clusters at tips of twigs 1–2½ inches wide; each flower small, white, with 5 petals and numerous stamens.

Fruits September–October, in drooping clusters of small, papery, reddish capsules.

Note: Several cultivated varieties have been developed for landscaping purposes. Many of these have strikingly colorful summer foliage ranging from copper to wine to burgundy red to purple.


Height: 3 to 10 feet.


Image of a ninebark


Cluster of white flowers with five petals on a stalk with dark green serrated leaves
Ninebark blossoms at Valley View Glades Natural Area
Habitat and conservation

In nature, this shrub is found on gravel bars, rocky stream banks, and bluffs along streams, usually associated with sumacs and gray dogwood. In cultivation, ninebark is an excellent shrub for borders, hedges, screening, and erosion control. It is a hardy plant with few disease or insect problems and can tolerate a wide variety of planting sites (even harsh ones). It thrives best in full sun.

image of Ninebark distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

In nature, found throughout southern and eastern Missouri. Cultivated statewide.

Human connections

An excellent thicket-forming shrub for hedges. Horticulturalists have had great success in breeding strikingly colorful varieties of ninebark. A close relative of spireas, ninebark, with its showy flowers and interesting bark, is an attractive, hardy choice for adding native plants to your landscaping.

Ecosystem connections

The flowers are a good nectar source for bees, butterflies, and even beetles (which require a relatively large platform for their clumsy landings). Several birds eat the seeds. The cover of shrubs is appreciated by all small animals seeking shelter from predators.