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Capparis spinosa - L.

Common Name Caper,Common Caper, Caper Bush
Family Capparidaceae
USDA hardiness 8-10
Known Hazards None known
Habitats On rocks, affecting the hottest localities, to 3600 metres in the Himalayas[146]. Old walls, cliffs and rocky hillsides in the Mediterranean[187].
Range Europe - Mediterranean to E. Asia - Himalayas.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Capparis spinosa Caper,Common Caper, Caper Bushé_Capparis_spinosa_clean.jpg
Capparis spinosa Caper,Common Caper, Caper Bush


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Bloom Color: Red, White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Prostrate, Spreading or horizontal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Capparis spinosa is an evergreen Shrub growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 2 m (6ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8. It is in leaf all year. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; South Wall. By. West Wall. By.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves
Edible Uses: Condiment

The flower buds are pickled and used as a flavouring in sauces, salads etc[146, 183]. The young fruits and tender branch tips can also be pickled and used as a condiment[183, 238]. The flower buds are harvested in the early morning and wilted before pickling them in white vinegar[238]. Young shoots - cooked and used like asparagus[177, 183].


Medicinal Uses

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Analgesic  Anthelmintic  Antihaemorrhoidal  Aperient  Deobstruent  Depurative  Diuretic  Emmenagogue  
Expectorant  Tonic  Vasoconstrictor

The root-bark is analgesic, anthelmintic, antihaemorrhoidal, aperient, deobstruent, depurative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, tonic and vasoconstrictive[7]. It is used internally in the treatment of gastrointestinal infections, diarrhoea, gout and rheumatism[238, 240]. Externally, it is used to treat skin conditions, capillary weakness and easy bruising[254]. The bark is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[238]. The stem bark is bitter and diuretic[254]. If taken before meals it will increase the appetite[254]. The unopened flower buds are laxative[254]. They are used internally in the treatment of coughs, and externally to treat eye infections[238]. The buds are a rich source of compounds known as aldose-reductose inhibitors - it has been shown that these compounds are effective in preventing the formation of cataracts. The buds are harvested before the flowers open and can be pickled for later use - when prepared correctly they are said to ease stomach pain[254]. A decoction of the plant is used to treat vaginal thrush[7, 254]. The leaves are bruised and applied as a poultice in the treatment of gout[240].


Our new book Edible Shrubs is now available.

Edible Shrubs provides detailed information, attractively presented, on over 70 shrub species. They have been selected to provide a mix of different plant sizes and growing conditions. Most provide delicious and nutritious fruit, but many also have edible leaves, seeds, flowers, stems or roots, or they yield edible or useful oil.

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Edible Shrubs Book

Other Uses


An extract of the root is used as a cosmetic and is particularly useful in treating rose-coloured rashes and capillary weaknesses[7].

Special Uses

Scented Plants


Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Cascades, Container, Erosion control, Ground cover. Requires a hot, well-drained dry position in full sun[187, 200, 260]. Plants are tolerant of drought[260]. Tolerates a pH in the range 6.3 to 8.3. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c[187, 200]. A perennial species, this plant produces annual stems from a woody base[187]. The flowers open in the early morning and fade by midday[260]. Capers are often cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical zones for their aromatic flower buds, which are used as a condiment[187], they are also frequently gathered from the wild[238]. There are some named varieties[183], the most commonly cultivated form tends to be the spineless C. spinosa inermis[238]. Special Features: Not North American native, Invasive, Attractive flowers or blooms.


Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained soil when they are large enough to handle. Grow on the young plants for at least their first winter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in sand in a cold frame[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Radevski   Thu Apr 26 2007

what is translation of caper on Macedonian(or Serbo-Croatian language)

Davis   Mon Jul 20 2009

Pickled Caper fruit are eaten like Olives in Spain, they taste like the flowers but weaker(Oxford Companion to food. Davidson)

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