Information on Soapwort

Common Name: Soapwort
Scientific Name: Saponaria officinalis
Irish Name: Garbhán creagach
Family Group: Caryophyllaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

Click for list of all flowering by month
Soapwort is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.

This is a very pretty garden escape which has become naturalised, mostly in its 'double' form where the stamens have been replaced by extra petals.  It is a perennial plant growing to about 70cm tall and bearing soft pink flowers (25-35mm across) which stand clear of the sepals in a crowded head from July to September.  The leaves are narrow with 3 conspicuous veins and are opposite.  It produces a delicate scent believed to attract moths. This is not a native plant and it belongs to the family Caryophyllaceae. 

I first identified this wildflower in 1981 at Castlecove, Co Kerry and I photographed it near Wellingtonbridge, Co Wexford in 2007.

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

In times past, the leaves of this plant were boiled to make a froth which was used to wash wool. It is still used occasionally to wash very old and delicate fabrics and there are several brands of shampoo currently on the market which contain soapwort as an advertised ingredient.  

Nathaniel Colgan in his 'Flora of the County Dublin'  (1904) wrote that this plant 'has been established for upwards of a century along the Dodder valley' and he 'suggests that it was introduced for use in the bleachgreens and calico printing works then in operation along the river near Ball's Bridge'.