(Spiraea salicifolia) Rose family

Flowers - Small, white or flesh pink, clustered in dense

pyramidal terminal panicles. Calyx 5 cleft; carolla of 5 rounded

petals; stamens numerous; pistils 5 to 8. Stem: 2 to 4 ft. high,

simple or bushy, smooth, usually reddish. Leaves: Alternate, oval

or oblong, saw-edged.

Preferred Habitat - Low meadows, swamps, fence-rows, ditches.

Flowering Season - June-August.

Distribution - Newfoundland to Georgia, west to Rocky Mountains.

Europe and Asia.

Fleecy white plumes of meadow-sweet, the "spires of closely

clustered bloom" sung by Dora Read Goodale, are surely not

frequently found near dusty "waysides scorched with barren heat,"

even in her Berkshires; their preference is for moister soil,

often in the same habitat with a first cousin, the pink

steeple-bush. But plants, like humans, are capricious creatures.

If the meadow-sweet always elected to grow in damp ground whose

rising mists would clog the pores of its leaves, doubtless they

would be protected with a woolly absorbent, as its cousins are.

Inasmuch as perfume serves as an attraction to the more highly

specialized, aesthetic insects, not required by the spiraeas, our

meadow-sweet has none, in spite of its misleading name. Small

bees (especially Andrenidae), flies (Syrphidae), and beetles,

among other visitors, come in great numbers, seeking the

accessible pollen, and, in this case, nectar also, secreted in a

conspicuous orange-colored disk. When a floret first opens, or

even before, the already mature stigmas overtop the incurved,

undeveloped stamens, so that any visitor dusted from other

clusters cross-fertilizes it; but as the stigmas remain fresh

even after the stamens have risen and shed their abundant pollen,

it follows that in long-continued stormy weather, when few

insects are flying, the flowers fertilize themselves.

Self-fertilization with insect help must often occur in the

flower's second stage. The fragrant yellowish-white ENGLISH

MEADOW-SWEET (S. ulmaria), often cultivated in old-fashioned

gardens here, has escaped locally.

In long, slender, forking spikes the GOAT'S-BEARD (Aruncus

Aruncus - Spiraea aruncus of Gray) lifts its graceful panicles of

minute whitish flowers in May and June from three to seven feet

above the rich soil of its woodland home. The petioled, pinnate

leaves are compounded of several leaflets like those on its

relative the rose-bush. From New York southward and westward to

Missouri, also on the Pacific Coast to Alaska, is its range on

this Continent. Very many more beetles than any other visitors

transfer pollen from the staminate flowers on one plant to the

pistillate ones on another; other plants produce only perfect

flowers - the reason different panicles vary so much in


Another herbaceous perennial once counted a spiraea is the common

INDIAN PHYSIC or BOWMAN'S-ROOT (Porteranthus trifoliatus -

Gillensia trifoliata of Gray) found blooming in the rich woods

during June and July from western New York southward and

westward. Two to four feet high, it displays its very loose,

pretty clusters of white or pale pink flowers, comparatively few

in the whole panicle, each blossom measuring about a half inch

across and borne on a slender pedicel. A tubular, 5-toothed calyx

has the long slender petals inserted within. Owing to the depth

and narrowness of the tube, the small, long-tongued bees cannot

reach the nectar without dusting their heads with pollen from the

anthers inserted in a ring around the entrance or leaving some on

the stigmas of other blossoms. Later, the five carpels make as

many hairy, awl-tipped little pods within the reddish cup. The

leaves may be compounded of three oblong or ovate, saw-edged

leaflets, or merely three-lobed, and with small stipules at their


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