narrow-leaved meadowsweet

(Spiraea alba var. alba)

Conservation Status
narrow-leaved meadowsweet
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland


FACW - Facultative wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACW - Facultative wetland


Narrow-leaved meadowsweet is a 3 to 6 tall, erect, perennial, usually unbranched shrub with a woody root. It may form tall, dense thickets.

The bark is gray or reddish-brown and smooth. When it ages the bark becomes papery and peels off in fine strips.

Young twigs are green, leafy, and covered with minute, fine, soft hairs. Later they become hairless and develop dull brown or yellowish-brown bark. They do not have thorns.

Buds are long-pointed and silky. Leaf scars are raised and have just 1 bundle scar.

The leaves are alternate, hairless, crowded, and deciduous. They are narrowly oblong to narrowly lance-shaped, unlobed, 3 to 4 times as long as wide, 2 to 3½ long, and 3 16 to ¾ wide. They are attached to the twig on short, 1 16to 5 16 long leaf stalks. The upper surface is medium green and hairless. The lower surface is pale green and hairless. The margins have fine, sharp teeth.

The inflorescence is an erect, branched, cluster of many small flowers at the end of the stem or a branch. It is pyramid-shaped, longer than wide, 2 to 6 long. The flower stems and flower cups are minutely woolly.

The flowers are ¼ wide and slightly fuzzy. They have 5 white, rarely pinkish, petals, 5 light green sepals, and 20 or more long stamens. The sepals are obtuse and spreading, but do not bend backward when the flowers are fully open. The petals are much longer than the sepals.

The fruit is a group of 5 dry, brown, hairless pods with short beaks. They contain 2 to 5 seeds.




3 to 6


Flower Color


White, rarely pinkish


Similar Species


Broadleaf meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. latifolia) twigs are purplish-brown or reddish-brown. Twig color, however, is an unreliable indicator because the color is variable. Leaves are broader, only 2 to 3 times as long as wide. Leaf margins have coarser, more blunt teeth. The inflorescence is hairless or nearly hairless. The sepals are acute. It is found in moist to dry locations. According to Minnesota State Botanist Welby Smith, no convincing specimens of broadleaf meadowsweet have been collected in the state.

Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) is a much shorter plant, usually less than 3 tall. The leaves have a dense, reddish-brown fuzz on the underside. The sepals are not spreading but bend backward when the flowers are fully open. The flower petals are pink or rose-purple. The fruit is hairy.


Moist to wet. Meadows, bogs, swamps, thickets, streambanks, shorelines. Full sun.




June to August


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 4, 7, 8, 24, 29, 30.










  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Rosales (roses, elms, figs, and allies)  


Rosaceae (rose)  
  Subfamily Amygdaloideae  
  Tribe Spiraeeae  


Spiraea (meadowsweet)  
  Species Spiraea alba (white meadowsweet)  

The genus Spiraea was formerly included in the subfamily Spiraeoideae. A reanalysis in 2007 found that Spiraeoideae contained all descendants of a common ancestor except a few – it was paraphyletic, and therefore invalid. In 2011, the subfamily Amygdaloideae was redefined adding the former Spiraeoideae and Maloideae.


Subordinate Taxa








Common Names



narrowleaf spire

narrow-leaved meadowsweet

narrow-leaved meadow-sweet

northern meadow-sweet

white meadowsweet













A comparatively short and stout, narrow or prolonged tip on a thickened organ, as on some fruits and seeds.

Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

Martin Schrattenholzer

    narrow-leaved meadowsweet   narrow-leaved meadowsweet  


    narrow-leaved meadowsweet      


    narrow-leaved meadowsweet   narrow-leaved meadowsweet  
    narrow-leaved meadowsweet   narrow-leaved meadowsweet  


    narrow-leaved meadowsweet   narrow-leaved meadowsweet  
    narrow-leaved meadowsweet   narrow-leaved meadowsweet  
    narrow-leaved meadowsweet      


    narrow-leaved meadowsweet      


    narrow-leaved meadowsweet      






Visitor Videos

Share your video of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos



Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.
  Martin Schrattenholzer

Location: middle campsite on Ahsub Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

narrow-leaved meadowsweet  




Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © All rights reserved.