(Filipendula hexapetala) Dropwort, Meadowsweet. This is the single (and native) form of this lovely plant. It is a picture of elegance with its coral-bronze buds opening to clusters of creamy white flowers all carried on bronzy wiry stems. Attractive rosettes of dark ferny foliage (a bit like Achillea foliage all beefed up). I can just imagine this in a country brides bouquet, long before gypsophila was ever invented. 45cm high in flower in mid-summer. Unlike most Meadowseet this comes from upland chalk, and whilst not being a water lover, neither does it appreciate drought . As to alkalinity it seems remarkably indifferent.
Filipendula are for the most part moisture lovers, growing naturally in fens, wetlands and damp ditches. The exception is Filipendula vulgaris which grows in drier grasslands naturally. It can be grown in moist soils providing that they drain well and don’t sit wet. The moisture lovers can be grown in situations from bog gardens to the open border, providing there is access to moisture in the summer. Given ample moisture they can tolerate a sunny position, though the yellow leaved Filipendula ulmaria ‘Aurea’ can scorch in full sun in the Summer.
Filipendula ulmaria and its forms grow into dense clumps, whilst the American Filipendula rubra has a more open, running habit.
Everyone knows that Salicylic acid can be found in the bark of willows (The Latin name of Willow is Salix). However it was from the flower heads of Filipendula that the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid was first isolated as long ago as 1839. Meadowsweet is gentler on the stomach than is aspirin making it kinder in people with peptic ulcers.
The leaves of Filipendula vulgaris (dropwort) have been eaten in salads, also being used as opig fodder in Sweden. This may seem somewhat alarming as members of another genus, Oenanthe, which share the common name dropwort, are amongst the most poisonous of British natives.
The common name ‘Meadowsweet’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘medu’=Mead as the plant was used to add flavour to mead; a drink brewed from honey.
Filipendula comes from the Latin ‘filum’ = thread and ‘pendulus’ = drooping. Some members have roots that hang together with thread-like sections.
Filipendula ulmaria (Spiraea ulmaria) Rosaceae. Meadowsweet, Dropwort