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(Spiraea spp.)

There are approximately 80 - 100 species in the genus Spiraea. The most common in the great lakes region is White Meadowsweet, (Spiraea alba). Most of the varied species share main characteristics, and all have similar medicinal qualities. The advantage of Spiraea over willow or other Salix spp. is that the Methyl Salicylate levels are constant from plant to plant, and species to species.


Identifying characteristics:

Perennial shrub 3 - 6 feet tall. Young branches are green and glabrous, but they become smooth, brown, and woody with age. Alternate leaves (up to 3" long and " across) occur along the young branches of this shrub; they are densely distributed along these branches. The leaves are narrowly ovate, sharply serrated, pinnately veined, and glabrous (rarely sparsely hairy underneath); they have short petioles. The upper side of each leaf is medium green, while its lower side is pale green. The branches terminate in panicles of flowers about 2-6" long; these panicles are torch to pyramidal in shape. The stalks of each panicle are light green and either glabrous or pubescent. Each flower is about " across, consisting of 5 white petals, 5 light green sepals, 5 light green pistils, and numerous stamens (20 or more). The petals are much longer than the sepals, while the filaments of the stamens are much longer than the styles of the pistils. Where the nectaries of each flower are located, there is a narrow ring-like structure that surrounds the 5 pistils in the center of the flower; this floral structure is pink, orange, or yellow. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer and lasts about 1-2 months. Each flower is replaced by a cluster of 5 hairless follicles with short beaks; each follicle opens along one side to release its seeds (about 2-5 per follicle). The leaves of this shrub are deciduous and its root system is woody.


Prefers full sun, moist to wet conditions, and rich soils.

Parts Used:

Entire plant


Wild Food Uses:

None Known

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:

Spiraea contain Methyl Salicylate, the precursor to modern aspirin. Spiraea does not cause the stomach problems associated with aspirin use. Tea brewed from the Meadowsweet has been used for pain relief, rheumatism, and to alleviate fevers.

Medicinal Actions:

Analgesic, Anti-Inflammatory, Antiarthritic, Antirheumatic, Febrefuge

Spiraea alba

Spiraea alba

Spiraea alba

Spiraea alba

Photo Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

Spiraea alba

Photo Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

Spiraea thunbergii

Spiraea prunifolia Bridalwreath

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Revised: 05/11/16 Living Afield