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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Spiraea alba DuRoi

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Common Name:

meadowsweet

09/08/2002

Meadowsweet is a small native shrub found in upland and lowland woods, sedge meadows and wet to mesic prairies.  It tolerates all soil types except heavy clays.

The fragrant white flowers form narrow upright terminal clusters, 8 to 12 cm long, and bloom from mid-June through September.  Like all the members of the rose family, meadowsweet flowers have 5 sepals, united at the base, 5 separate petals and many stamens. The fruit is a 5-parted dry capsule.

The stem is dark brown, branching only rarely, and the bark of older plants peels off in strips, like that of the closely related ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius). Leaves are alternate, simple, finely serrate, 3-7 cm long and pointed at both ends. 

Meadowsweet is similar to steeplebush (S. tomentosa), which is more common on acidic sites, and has pink flowers and densely hairy leaves.  Horticultural varieties of both are very common outside fast-food restaurants.

  • Origin of the name: Spiraea, Latin name for the genus; alba, L., white
  • Range:  Eastern N. Amer., s. to MO, NC
  • WI Range:  Statewide
  • Common associates: joe-pye weed, marsh aster, sweet gale
  • Wetland Indicator Status: FACW+
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: C=4, WI; C=5, MI; C=7, Chicago Region
     
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