Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

This is one of two native Spiraea spp. in Illinois. The other species, Spiraea tomentosa (Steeplebush), is a more hairy shrub with pink flowers. In Illinois, it is less common than Meadowsweet and prefers sandy wetlands. Another species, Spiraea latifolia (Eastern Meadowsweet), is found in wetlands further to the east. This species is very similar in appearance to Spiraea alba (Meadowsweet), except it has leaves that are more broad. Sometimes Eastern Meadowsweet is considered a variety of Meadowsweet and referred to as Spiraea alba latifolia. The showy Spiraea spp. that are commonly cultivated as landscape plants have been introduced from the Old World. They rarely escape from cultivation and are not often found in natural habitats.
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Description

This native perennial shrub is 2-6' tall and sparingly branched. Young branches are green and glabrous, but they become smooth, brown, and woody with age. Alternate leaves (up to 3" long and ¾" 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 oblongoid to pyramidal in shape. The stalks of each panicle are light green and either glabrous or pubescent. Each flower is about ¼" 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.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Meadowsweet is occasional in northern Illinois, uncommon in central Illinois, and rare or absent in the southern section of the state (see Distribution Map). It prefers glaciated areas of the state that are sunny and poorly drained. Habitats include wet prairies, low areas along streams, edges of marshes, bogs, and ditches.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Meadowsweet is occasional in northern Illinois, uncommon in central Illinois, and rare or absent in the southern section of the state (see Distribution Map). It prefers glaciated areas of the state that are sunny and poorly drained. Habitats include wet prairies, low areas along streams, edges of marshes, bogs, and ditches.
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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Meadowsweet in Illinois

Spiraea alba (Meadowsweet)
(also referred to as Spiraea latifolia, which is sometimes considered a variety of Spiraea alba or synonymous with it; butterflies and skippers suck nectar, otherwise insect activity is unspecified; observations are from Krombein et al., Small,  Swengel & Swengel, and Lisberg & Young)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Bombini): Bombus impatiens (Sm), Bombus perplexus (Sm), Bombus sandersoni (Sm), Bombus ternarius fq (Sm), Bombus terricola fq (Sm)

Bees (short-tongued)
Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena forbesii (Kr), Andrena miranda (Kr), Andrena spiraeana (Kr), Andrena virginiana (Kr)

Flies
Syrphidae: Eristalis dimidiatus (Sm), Helophilus laetus (Sm), Platycheirus rosarum (Sm), Syritta pipiens (Sm); Tabanidae: Hybomitra minuscula fq (Sm)

Butterflies
Lycaenidae: Lycaeides melissa samuelis sn (Sw)

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Thymelicus lineola sn (Sm)

Beetles
Mordellidae: Mordella marginata (LY); Scarabaeidae: Macrodactylus subspinosus fq (Sm)

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Faunal Associations

The flowers produce nectar and pollen; they attract bumblebees, various other bees, wasps, adult long-horned beetles (Cerambycidae), and the moth Ctenucha virginica (Virginia Ctenucha). The caterpillars of the butterfly Celastrina argiolus (Spring Azure) feed on the flowers and buds of Meadowsweet. The caterpillars of several moths also feed on Meadowsweet and other Spiraea spp. (usually the leaves); see the Moth Table for a listing of these species. The leaf beetle Tricholochmaea spiraeae (a.k.a. Pyrrhalta spiraeae) is a specialist feeder of Meadowsweet (both Spiraea alba & Spiraea latifolia), while the larvae of several gall gnats also rely on these shrubs as a source of food and habitation; see the Gall Gnat Table for a listing of these species and their symptomatology. Among vertebrate animals, the Ruffed Grouse and Greater Prairie Chicken eat the flowerbuds of Meadowsweet; the latter gamebird also eats the seeds during the fall and winter. White-Tailed Deer often browse the upper leaves and twigs, while the Cottontail Rabbit occasionally browses the lower leaves and twigs. Photographic Location
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Spiraea alba

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Threats

Comments: Draining and destructrion of wetlands and commercial forestry practices are low-level threats (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

Meadowsweet prefers full sun, wet to moist conditions, and soil containing abundant organic material (including peat). Standing water is tolerated if it is temporary.
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Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG

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Wikipedia

Spiraea alba

For other plants called meadowsweet, see meadowsweet (disambiguation).

Spiraea alba, commonly known as meadowsweet,[2]narrowleaf meadowsweet,[citation needed] pale bridewort,[2] or pipestem,[citation needed] grows on wet soils of the Allegheny Mountains and other portions of eastern North America. [3]

Narrowleaf meadowsweet shrubs often reach 8 feet in height. This species is often the most conspicuous part of the vegetation in its habitat, taking up large areas of ground. Its leaves are oblong or lance-shaped, and toothed on the edges, and its twigs are tough and yellowish brown. The white flowers grow in spikelike clusters at the ends of the branches, blooming from early summer through September.

The hollow, upright stems were used historically as pipe stems.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "USDA GRIN Taxonomy". Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Venable, Norma Jean (1992), Common Summer Wildflowers of West Virginia, WVU Extension Service.

See also[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: As treated here, following Kartesz (1994 checklist), the plants commonly called Spiraea latifolia are considered a variety of Spiraea alba; however, Spiraea septentrionalis is recognized as a distinct species, and not a variety of Spiraea latifolia. The chromosome count of Spiraea alba var. latifolia is 2n=36 (reported as Spiraea latifolia), in contrast to 2n=54 count for Spiraea septentrionalis (Love & Love, 1964, Taxon 13: 204).

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