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Meadowsweet - Filipendula ulmaria

Meadowsweet - Filipendula ulmaria

Main features

  • Grows near water and in damp meadows

  • Pairs of opposing leaflets with serrated edges up a long leaf stem

  • Terminal leaves have three to five lobes

  • Very small serrated intermediate leaflets between large leaflets

  • Red colour to stem

  • Frothy white flowers in summer

  • Entire plant has strong antiseptic smell when crushed

  • Season is spring to autumn

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Meadowsweet - Filipendula ulmaria

Edible plant - novice

Other common names: Mead Wort, Queen of the Meadow, Pride of the Meadow, Meadow Wort, Bridewort, Dollof, Meadsweet, Meadow Queen, Lady of the Meadow


Scientific name meaning: Filipendula has its origins in the Latin "filum", meaning thread, and "pendulus" meaning to hang down. This is a reference to the way the tubers of the plant hang on thread-like roots when uprooted. 

Ulmaria comes from New Latin and is the mediaeval name for Goat's Beard - a plant with elm-like leaves, which Meadowsweet's leaves resemble

Season Spring to Autumn

Habitat - where will I find it? A native of Britain and Europe, Meadowsweet likes moist habitats. It is often found near water and in damp meadows. However, it does not grow on acidic peat

Description - what does it look like? The long leaves of Meadowsweet grow from a basal rosette. The have red stems and serrated crinkled pairs of leaflets along the stem length. In between these leaflets are much smaller intermediate leaflets. 

In summer, flower stalks emerge, which can reach up to 2m in good growth conditions, that are topped with an inflorescence of frothy white flowers.

The entire plant smells strongly of antiseptic due to the methyl salicylate it contains

Possible lookalikes Dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris) - not to be confused with the Apiaceae dropworts - could be confused with Meadowsweet, but its leaves are much more fern-like in appearance

Use as a food The flowers can be used to make cordial, syrup, jelly and tea infusions. They have been historically used to flavoured mead and beer, but can be used to make a liquour.

The young leave can be cooked and eaten, but the flavour is not great!

Use in herbal medicine Due to its high concentration of salycilic acid, Meadowsweet was used in the past to make the painkiller Aspirin. However, it is now lab synthesised. The name is actually derived from the former genus name of Meadowsweet: Spiraea.

Additionally, it has been used to treat diarrhoea, gastric problems, sores, ulcers, respiratory disorders, fevers, and colds, and as a iduretic, astringent and antiseptic
If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards Those with under the age of 12, or who have an Aspirin sensitivity, or suffer from a blood thinning disorder or asthma, or those on blood thinning tablets should avoid Meadowsweet. It should also be avoided during all stages of pregnancy and nursing.

Importance to other species The flowers provide a source of nectar for many pollinators and a food source for various beetles

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

Meadowsweet - Filipendula ulmaria
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