ROSE FAMILY - Rosaceae: Meadow-sweet; Quaker Lady; Queen-of-the-Meadow

Spiraea salicifolia

Flowers--Small, white, or flesh pink, clustered in dense, pyramidal terminal panicles. Calyx 5 cleft; corolla of 5 rounded petals; stamens numerous; pistils 5 to 8. Stem: 2 to 4 ft. high, simple or bushy, smooth, usually reddish. Leaves: Alternate, oval, or oblong, saw-edged.

Preferred Habitat--Low meadows, swamps, fence-rows, ditches.

Flowering Season--June-August.

Distribution--Newfoundland to Georgia, west to Rocky Mountains. Europe and Asia.

Fleecy white plumes of meadow-sweet, the "spires of closely clustered bloom" sung by Dora Read Goodale, are surely not frequently found near dusty "waysides scorched with barren heat," even in her Berkshires; their preference is for moister soil, often in the same habitat with a first cousin, the pink steeple-bush. But plants, like humans, are capricious creatures. If the meadow-sweet always elected to grow in damp ground whose rising mists would clog the pores of its leaves, doubtless they would be protected with a woolly absorbent, as its cousins are.

Inasmuch as perfume serves as an attraction to the more highly specialized, aesthetic insects, not required by the spiraeas, our meadow-sweet has none, in spite of its misleading name. Small bees, flies, and beetles, among other visitors, come in great numbers, seeking the accessible pollen, and, in this case, nectar also, secreted in a conspicuous orange-colored disk.