Soapy Substance – Identify the Plant

Q: When I was a boy during the 1930s in Savannah, I found a wild plant which, if the leaves were rubbed, yielded a soapy substance. What was that plant?

A: Wild plant expert Shannon Pable (shannonpable.com) says you likely found soapwort, Saponaria officinalis. This hardy perennial can be grown in a sunny bed but it may spread more than you like. You can make a natural soap, or even shampoo, by boiling the leaves, roots and stems. Seeds can be found online.