TREES & plants

American bladdernut

American bladdernut is a large, native under story shrub, often forming thickets in undisturbed landscapes. Beautiful clusters of drooping, tubular white flowers appear in early spring, followed by unusual bladder-like seed pods, which are persistent long into the winter months. A great plant for naturalizing or shady woodlands.

Botanical name: 
Staphylea trifolia
All Common Names: 
American bladdernut, bladdernut
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
  • Fast
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Dry sites
  • Wet sites
  • Occasional flooding
  • Alkaline soil
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Size Range: 
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet)
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Thicket-forming
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Massing
  • Mixed border
  • Screen
Time of Year: 
  • Early spring
  • Mid spring
  • Mid summer
More Information: 

Size & Form

A colony-forming under story shrub, 10 to 15 feet high and wide.

Tree & Plant Care

Best as understory plant in moist, shady sites.
Spreading shrub forms colonies through suckering roots.
Some stems can be thick enough to form small trees.

Disease, pests, and problems

Drought sensitive, supplimental water in dry periods.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 7
Native to Midwest & eastern U.S.
Found in moist, rich woods and wooded slope, along river banks and in floodplains.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Provides protective cover to birds and other wildlife.

Bark color and texture 

Young twigs and bark are olive green and smooth. Older twigs develop tan fissures which contrast nicely against greenish twigs.
Mature bark is brownish-gray with white streaks along the trunk.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite, compound, three-parted (trifoliate) ovate, dark green leaves. Each ovate leaflet up to 4" long and slightly toothed.
Leaves are dark green and paler green beneath. Petiole leaf stalks are up to 5 inches long.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

 White, bell-shaped flowers in drooping clusters appear in early spring before trees leaf out.  Each flower forms a unfused tube, speals cover flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A three-lobed, inflated, 1 1/2 inch, bladder-like papery seed capsules, which matures in late summer and often persist into early winter.
Seed capsules add interest to dried flower arrangements.