(Opulaster opulifolius; Spiraea opulifolia of Gray) Rose
Flowers - White or pink, small, in numerous rounded terminal
clusters to 2 in. broad. Calyx 5-lobed; 5 rounded petals inserted
in its throat; 20 to 40 stamens; several pistils. Stem: Shrubby,
3 to 10 ft.
high, with long, recurved branches, the loose bark
peeling off annually in thin strips. Leaves: Simple, heart-shaped
or rounded, 3-lobed, toothed. Fruit: 3 to 5 smooth, shining,
reddish, inflated, pointed pods.
Preferred Habitat - Rocky banks, riversides.
Flowering Season - June.
Distribution - Canada to Georgia, west to Kansas.
Whether the nurserymen agree with Dr. Gray or not when he says
these balls of white flowers possess "no beauty," the fact
remains that numbers of the shrubs are sold for ornament,
especially a golden-leaved variety. But the charm certainly lies
in their fruit. (Opulus = a wild cranberry tree.) When this is
plentifully set at the ends of long branches that curve backward,
and the bladder-like pods have taken on a rich purplish or
reddish hue, the shrub is undeniably decorative. Even the old
flowers, after they have had their pollen carried away by the
small bees and flies, show a reddish tint on the ovaries which
deepens as the fruit forms; and Ludwig states that this is not
only to increase the conspicuousness of the shrubs, but to entice
unbidden guests away from the younger flowers. Who will tell us
why the old bark should loosen every year and the thin layers
separate into not nine, but dozens of ragged strips?
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