This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Our first encounter with the Queen of the Meadows, or Meadow-sweet, is an event to be remembered. It will probably be beside a shallow stream, and for a long distance we shall see the continuous line of thick clumps, with the handsome, much-divided radical leaves standing erect around the taller furrowed stems. Individually the creamy-white flowers are minute, but combined in large dense cymes they are very conspicuous. There is an airy grace about the plant that is particularly charming, quite apart from the attraction of its powerful fragrance.
Meadow-sweet has a short perennial rootstock, the leaves are interruptedly pinnate (see p. 63), the terminal leaflet three-lobed. The undersides are downy and white. The stem-leaves are provided with broad-toothed stipules. In spite of their fragrance the flowers produce no honey, but, attracted by the sweet odour, insects visit them in great numbers, and from the closeness of the flowers cannot help fertilizing them. The calyx has four or five lobes, turned back; the petals are four or five, the carpels vary from five to nine, curiously twisted, and surrounded by a large number of stamens. It flowers from June to August, and may be found beside watercourses and in wet meadows, as well as by the sides of streams and rivers.
There is one other British species The Dropwort (Spiraea filipendula), which grows far away from the haunts of the Meadow-sweet, delighting in high dry pastures, chalk downs, and gravelly heaths. He that has seen uhnaria will not fail to identify filipendula as the sister of the meadow queen, for though much smaller it is in general appearance very similar. The unopened flowers are rosy, but the inside of the petals is of the same creamy-white as in Meadow-sweet. It is not fragrant. Flowers June and July.
A third species, the Willow-leaved Spiraea (S. salicifolia), may occasionally be met in plantations; but it is not a native.
Meadow-Sweet. Queen of the Meadows.
- Rosaceae. -