Herbs, shrubs, or trees, with mostly alternate leaves, usually toothed or divided, the stipules seldom wanting and often leaflike. Flowers in cymes, or solitary at the end of the year's shoots, or more rarely in lateral bunches. Sepals 4 or 5, united at the base into a lobed calyx. Petals 4 or 5 or rarely none. Stamens numerous, inserted with the petals on the calyx below its lobes. Ovary of one, two, or more carpels. As the fruit enlarges the carpels either remain free or are combined with each other or with the calyx. Often only 1 or 2 seeds in each carpel.

A numerous family widely spread over the globe, but more in the northern hemisphere than in the tropics.

Spirae L

Herbs or shrubs with much diversity in the foliage. Flowers usually small and numerous, in terminal cymes or panicles. Calyx free, 5-lobed. Petals 5. Stamens numerous. Carpels 3, or more frequently 5, quite free from the calyx, forming as many dry capsules, opening along the inner edge. A genus spread over the northern hemisphere, but barely extending to the tropics.

Spircea Aruncus L

A handsome plant of about 3 feet, with very feathery white inflorescence. Leaves very large, often a foot long, triangular in general outline, 2-3 pinnatisect, with opposite petioled segments, with doubly-toothed margins. No stipules. Flowers white, very small, usually dioecious, sessile, in elongated spikes forming a large panicle. Stamens longer than the oblong petals. Carpels 3 or 4, recurved on maturity.

Mountain woods, gorges, etc., 2000 to 4000 feet. June, July.


Alps, Jura, Pyrenees, Vosges; Central Europe, Northern and Western Asia, N. America.

Spircea Ulmaria L. Meadowsweet

This well-known plant is often seen in Switzerland extending from the plains to about 5000 feet in some of the southern valleys. Its habitat is more variable than in England, for in that country it is very rarely seen in the mountains. It is found in Europe, Asia Minor and Northern Asia.

Alchemilla L. Lady's Mantle

Tufted herbs, annual or with a perennial almost woody root-stock and annual flowering stems, palmately lobed or divided leaves, and small green flowers in loose panicles or in small sessile heads. Calyx free, double, i.e. of 8 divisions, of which 4 alternate ones are outside and smaller. No petals. Stamens four or less. Carpels 1 or 2, 1-seeded.

A small genus, widely spread over the northern hemisphere, chiefly in mountainous districts.

Alchemilla Alpina L

Stem prostrate or ascending, branched, covered like the leaves with adpressed hairs. Leaves palmate, 5-9 partite, dark green on the upper side, silver-grey with shining silky hairs on under side; segments wedge-shaped, obtuse, serrated. Greenish-yellow flowers in a terminal, branched, often racemose, cyme.

Pastures and rocky places in the siliceous mountains up to 9000 feet. July, August.


Central and Western Europe, Norway. British. A characteristic plant of the sub-Alps in granitic districts.