New Jersey Tea, the most common name for ceanothua Americans, which is also called, in common with several other plants, red-root. The genus eeanothus (a name of unknown meaning), belonging to the buckthorn family (rhamndcea), is represented in the Atlantic states by only four species, while on the Pacific coast there are about 20, several of which are large shrubs or small trees, others low prostrate mountain shrubs, and some have evergreen leaves. New Jersey tea is found from Canada to Florida, usually growing in dry woods as a low much-branched under-shrub, seldom over 3 ft. high; it has a dark red root; ovate, finely serrate, three-ribbed, very veiny leaves, which are downy beneath; and minute white flowers in dense clustered panicles. The flower has five-hooded petals on long' claws, the same number of stamens, and a single pistil, which in fruit splits into three one-seeded carpels. It blooms in July, and so profusely as to be worthy of a place among ornamental shrubs. The leaves were among the many substitutes used for tea during the revolution. During the civil war they were used in some of the southern states, and were made the basis of an attempted fraudulent speculation at the north.
It was announced that the true Chinese tea plant had been discovered in the mountains of a certain county in Pennsylvania, and its identity was certified to by an expert from Assam. After a time the prospectus of a company appeared, with engravings of the true tea leaf; but the fraud was soon exposed. An infusion of the leaves of New Jersey tea, prepared in the same manner as the true tea, has somewhat the taste of the commoner grades of the imported article, but it is probably quite destitute of any stimulating properties The strong three-ribbed leaves distinguish it at sight from the true tea. The root has some astringency, and has been used in affections of the bowels, and to dye wool a cinnamon color. A similar species, C. ovalis, has narrower, smooth leaves, pointed at both ends, and somewhat larger flowers. Some of the species of the far west are fine ornamental shrubs. 0. thyrsijiorus is a small tree producing an abundance of light blue flowers, and known as the "California lilac." They are not hardy in the eastern states, though some of them succeed in England.
New Jersey Tea (CcanQthus Amerieamis).