This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
This plant is quite unrepresented at present in early deposits. It is found to-day in the Northern Temperate Zone in Europe, North Africa, North Asia. In Great Britain it is absent in N. Devon, S. Somerset; it occurs in the whole of the Channel, Thames, and Anglia provinces, and in the Severn province, except in Monmouth; in Wales, only in Carnarvon, Flint, and Anglesea, but in the whole of the Trent province; in W. Lancs and throughout the Humber and Tyne provinces, but not in the Isle of Man; in Scotland and Berwick, Edinburgh, Fife, Mid Perth, and Forfar, from Caithness it ranges southward, up to 1200 ft. in Yorkshire. It is found in the West of Ireland.
The Dropwort is a much more xerophilous plant than the Meadow Sweet, and grows most luxuriantly in upland pastures on the sides of dry hills, where it can shelter beside the protecting branches of shrubs and hedge-plants. Dropwort has the same sort of habit as Meadow Sweet, but the foliage is different, and is much divided, coarsely toothed, the leaflets being numerous, oblong, and deeply cut, giving them the appearance rather of Milfoil. It is dark-green in colour.
The flowers are in corymbs, not so numerous or crowded as in the Meadow Sweet. The petals are cream-colour and in bud externally rose-coloured. The capsule is not spirally twisted, but straight.
This beautiful plant is usually 2 ft. in height. It is in flower in June, July, and onwards up to October. It is perennial and is reproduced by division.
No honey is secreted, but only pollen. The insects alight on the stigma and cross-pollinate the plant. The petals are bent backwards and downwards during the expansion of the flower, and are attached by very narrow stalks so that they hang down under their own weight and a bee's weight when visited. Before they open, the stamens are bent outwards, and 9-12 broad styles spread out in the centre into a horizontal plane forming a disk around which the stigmas stand directed upwards and outwards. As the inner stamens remain directed upwards till they open, this causes the plant to be self-pollinated. It is visited by Halictus zonulus, H. sexnotatus, Eristalis arbustorum, E. nemorum, Helophilus floreus, Syritta pipiens, Trichius fasciatus.
Photo H. Irving - Dropwort (Spiraea Filipendula, L.)
The seeds are few and contained in a follicle, and may be dispersed around the parent plant by the wind or by browsing animals.
The fungus Triphragmium filipendulae develops on it, and the winter spores are beautiful objects under the microscope. A moth, Paramesia aspersana, lives on it.
Filipendula, Dodonaeus, is from Alum (Latin), thread, pendula, hanging, because the knob-like roots or tubers hang from fine thread-like fibres. Spiraea is the Greek name of the Meadow Sweet, a plant of the same genus.
This lovely wildflower is called Dropwort, Fillyfindillan, Lady's Ruffles, Meadow Sweet, Walwort. The name Dropwort was applied to it because it was used in cases of strangury. The tubers have been used in times of scarcity as food. It was supposed to cure stone in the Middle Ages. By the Doctrine of Signatures it was used because it is hard, with Gromwell seeds, which were beaten up together.
Essential Specific Characters:94. Spiraea filipendula, L. - Root tuberous, stem erect, leaves pinnate, alternate, smaller deeply serrate, flowers white in a cyme, petals pink externally, large, not crowded.