narrow-leaved meadowsweet

(Spiraea alba var. alba)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

narrow-leaved meadowsweet

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

Nativity

Native

Occurrence

 

Habitat

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

Flowering

June to August

     
Flower Color

White, rarely pinkish

     
Height

3 to 6

     

Identification

This 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.

 
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.

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.


Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 2, 4, 7, 8.

Comments

Taxonomy
According to Smith8 no convincing specimens of broadleaf meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. latifolia) have been collected in the state, making all specimens of white meadowsweet (Spiraea alba) collected narrow-leaved meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. alba).


Taxonomy

Family:

Rosaceae (rose)

 

Subfamily:

Spiraeoideae

 

Tribe:

Spiraeeae

 
Parent

white meadowsweet (Spiraea alba)

 
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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Leaves

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