Just why this naturalized European adventurer, which long ago escaped from the Colonial gardens, should be called Bouncing Bet, is not at all clear. Perhaps its wandering nature, cropping up here and there in waste places as it does, coupled with its comely, honest, wholesome, calico-and-gingham, look-you-straight-in-the-eye appearance as it stands and stares, or as it bobs about with the wind, gives some idea of how it happened. However, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," and so the beautiful, clustered flowers of the rough-and-ready Soapwort will continue to delight us from July to September, along dusty roadsides, edges and corners of neglected fields and farmyards and railroad banks, where it grows luxuriantly, and often grouped in great patches. It is everywhere common, and increases by means of underground runners or stolens. The roots have some medicinal value as a tonic, and when placed in water and agitated, they form a soaplike lather - a peculiarity that gives rise to the common names of Soaproot and Latherwort. The slightly grooved, erect stem is smooth, stout and leafy. It is sparingly branched, and grows one or two feet high. It is noticeably swollen at the joints, and is green in colour, sometimes stained with red. The thick-textured, tapering oval leaves grow alternately in pairs, and graduate as they mount the stalk. Their smooth surface shows three or five distinct ribs, and the margins are entire or very faintly scalloped. They unite at the base where they narrow into broad, short, clasping petioles. The showy, fragrant flowers are about an inch broad and are pink in colour, becoming white in proportion to the amount of shade in which they grow. The thin-textured petals are generally notched, and taper clawlike to their narrow, pointed base within a long, pale green, finely veined, five-toothed tubular calyx, from which they emerge and spread at right angles. At the top of the claw where the petals widen, they are crowned with two little, thread-like appendages. The ten yellowish stamens are divided into five long and five short sets, the former of which mature before the latter. The pistil has two recurving points or styles. The flowers are borne in a loose, terminal head, with many small bracts or floral leaves. A short, slender stem connects the calyx with the stalk, which it joins at the axil of the smaller leaves. This short flower stem usually bears a tiny pair of leaflets just below the calyx. Double flowers are not at all uncommon, and they are unusually attractive. As a rule, single and double flowers are not found in the same group. After the flowers mature, the calyx frequently splits apart and causes the fading petals to have a most dilapidated appearance, and October finds the storm - tossed stalks withered and broken - a sorry contrast to . its midsummer gaiety.
BOUNCING BET. SOAPWORT. Saponaria officinalis.