narrow-leaved meadowsweet

(Spiraea alba var. alba)

Conservation Status
narrow-leaved meadowsweet
 
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
Wetland Indicator Status
     
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland

     
  Midwest

FACW - Facultative wetland

     
  Northcentral & Northeast

FACW - Facultative wetland

     
           
 
Description
 
 

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.

 
     
 

Height

 
 

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 Smith8, 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.

 
     
 
Habitat
 
 

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

 
     
 
Ecology
 
 

Flowering

 
 

June to August

 
     
 
Use
 
 

 

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.

 
  2/8/2021      
         
 

Nativity

 
 

Native

 
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

 

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  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 (dicots)  
  Subclass Rosidae  
  Superorder Rosanae  
 

Order

Rosales (roses, elms, figs, and allies)  
 

Family

Rosaceae (rose)  
  Subfamily Amygdaloideae  
  Tribe Spiraeeae  
 

Genus

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.

There are two varieties of narrow-leaved meadowsweet. The eastern variety, var. latifolia, has a hairless inflorescence and broader, more coarsely toothed leaves. According to Minnesota State Botanist Welby Smith, var. latifolia is not found in Minnesota but intermediates between the two varieties can be found throughout the state.

 
       
 

Subordinate Taxa

 
 

 

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
     
       
 

Common Names

 
 

meadowsweet

narrowleaf spire

narrow-leaved meadowsweet

narrow-leaved meadow-sweet

northern meadow-sweet

white meadowsweet

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Beak

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

       
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Martin Schrattenholzer
       
  narrow-leaved meadowsweet   narrow-leaved meadowsweet
       
       
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
   

Habitat

  narrow-leaved meadowsweet    
       

Plant

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

Inflorescence

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

Leaves

  narrow-leaved meadowsweet    
       

Infructescence

  narrow-leaved meadowsweet    
       
       

 

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Martin Schrattenholzer
9/14/2020

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

narrow-leaved meadowsweet


     
     
 
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