MEADOWSWEET QUAKER LADY QUEENOFTHEMEADOW
(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
Next: WILD RED RASPBERRY
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