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Products > Capparis spinosa var. inermis
Capparis spinosa var. inermis - Caper Bush
Image of Capparis spinosa var. inermis
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Capparaceae (Capers)
Origin: Greece (Europe)
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Spring
Synonyms: [C. spinosa var. orientalis, C. orientalis]
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: 3-4 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 10-15° F
Capparis spinosa var. inermis (Caper Bush) - A deciduous sprawling shrub with large swollen roots and basal stems bearing semi-succulent medium-green heart-shaped leaves that often have a bronze or reddish tinge when newly emerging. The flower buds (the edible caper) begin to appear in late spring and often continue to late summer. The buds open at dawn and close late in the afternoon as delicately scented pinkish-white flowers, adorned with long lavender stamens and last for only a single day. Caper bushes thrive when planted in lean well-drained soil in a hot sunny location with little or no water. Although appreciative of some summer irrigation in well-drained soil, a sure way to kill the caper bush is to over water it. Tip growth can be damaged by temperatures in the mid 20s° F but plants are root hardy down to at least 18 °F. A simple rule of thumb is that the caper bush can be planted where the olive tree grows. As an ornamental plant caper bushes can be an attractive somewhat loose growing groundcover that spills over a wall, a specimen small shrub or can be used as an espalier, which presents the flower buds well for picking. The caper bush is salt-tolerant and will flourish along shores within sea-spray zones. As flowers are born on first-year branches, one can cut back plants annually without sacrificing flowering and have a healthier and bushier plant. Caper bush has long been thought to be native to the Mediterranean region of southern Europe but its range extends through northeastern Africa, Madagascar, western and central Asia south to Australia and Oceania. It is a type of plant called an archaeophyte, which is a plant introduced to a wide area during ancient times, so its precise origin is difficult to determine. The name for the genus is the Latin name for the plant and is derived from the Greek 'kápparis' whose origin is unknown but is possibly derived from an Asian name or from the island of Cyprus where the Caper Bush in abundant. The typical form of Capparis spinosa has stipular spines, as the specific epithet would imply, but the varietal form we grow lacks these spines and has long been called Capparis spinosa var. rupestris and later called Capparis spinosa var. inermis but more recently this taxa has been synonymized with Capparis spinosa subsp. orientalis or raised to the specific level as Capparis orientalis. Other common names include caper, caperberry or caperbush. Capparis spinosa has a long history of being cultivated; capers were noted as being a marketable commodity for the ancient Greeks by Dioscorides and their use was mentioned by the Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder. In this several millennia of use a simple rule for cultivation of caper bush has developed, that is to give plants a similarly harsh condition as it would grow in naturally. The immature flower buds are cured to become the capers used as a garnish or ingredient in Mediterranean dishes (such as Chicken Piccata!), the young shoots pickled or cooked and the pickled unripe fruit are eaten as a vegetable. The plants we sell are grown from seed from our stock plants that originated from cuttings taken in the early 1980s from plants growing in Franceschi Park in Santa Barbara. When Dr. Franceschi (Emanuele Orazio Fenzi) arrived in Santa Barbara in 1895 he found that Kinton Stevens was already cultivating this plant at his estate, which would eventually become Lotusland. None of the plants grown in Santa Barbara region at that time had stipular spines and were then called Capparis spinosa var. rupestris.  The information that is presented on this page is based on research we have conducted about this plant in our library and from reliable online sources. We also consider observations we have made of it in the nursery's garden and in other gardens we have visited, as well how it performs in our nursery crops out in the field. We incorporate comments that we receive from others as well and welcome getting feedback from anyone who may have additional information, particularly if they know of cultural information that would aid others in growing  Capparis spinosa var. inermis.