Filipendula ulmaria

Filipendula ulmaria

This article is about the Eurasian plant, introduced in some parts of America. For the American plant known as meadowsweet, see Spiraea. For the romance novel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, see Meadowsweet %28novel%29.

Filipendula ulmaria, commonly known as Meadowsweet, is a perennial herb in the family Rosaceae, which grows in damp meadows. It is native throughout most of Europe and western Asia though it has been successfully introduced and naturalized in North America.

Meadowsweet has also been referred to as Queen of the Meadow, Pride of the Meadow, Meadow-Wort, Meadow Queen, Lady of the Meadow, Dollof, Meadsweet and Bridewort.

Description

The stems are 1–2 m (3-7 ft) tall, erect and furrowed, reddish to sometimes purple. The leaves are dark green on the upper side and whitish and downy underneath, much divided, interruptedly pinnate, having a few large serrate leaflets and small intermediate ones. Terminal leaflets are large, 4–8 cm long and three to five-lobed.

Meadowsweet has delicate, graceful, creamy-white flowers clustered close together in handsome irregularly-branched cymes, having a very strong, sweet smell. They flower from June to early September.

Etymology

The name ulmaria means "elmlike", an odd epithet as it does not resemble the elm (Ulmus) in any way. However, like slippery elm bark, the plant contains salicylic acid, which has long been used as a painkiller, and this may be the source of the name. However, the generic name, Filipendula, comes from filum, meaning "thread" and pendulus, meaning "hanging." This is possibly said to describe the root tubers that hang characteristically on the genus, on fibrous roots.

Uses

The whole herb possesses a pleasant taste and flavour, the green parts having a similar aromatic character to the flowers, leading to the use of the plant as a strewing herb, strewn on floors to give the rooms a pleasant aroma, and its use to flavour wine, beer and many vinegars. The flowers can be added to stewed fruit and jams, giving them a subtle almond flavor. It has many medicinal properties. The whole plant is a traditional remedy for an acidic stomach and the fresh root is often used in minute quantities in homeopathic preparations. It is effective on its own as a treatment for diarrhoea. The flowers, when made into a tea, are a comfort to flu sufferers. Dried, the flowers make lovely pot pourri.

Active ingredients: compounds of salicylic acid, flavone-glycosides, essential oils and tannins.

In 1897 Felix Hoffmann created a synthetically altered version of salicin, derived from the species, which caused less digestive upset than pure salicylic acid. The new drug, formally Acetylsalicylic acid, was named aspirin by Hoffman's employer Bayer AG after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spiraea ulmaria. This gave rise to the hugely important class of drugs known as NonSteroidal AntiInflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDs.

This plant contains the chemicals used to make aspirin, a small section of root, when peeled and crushed smells like Germolene, and when chewed is a good natural remedy for relieving headaches.

A natural black dye can be obtained from the roots by using a copper mordant.

History

White-flowered meadowsweet has been found with the cremated remains of three people and at least one animal in a Bronze Age cairn at Fan Foel, Carmarthenshire. Similar finds have also been found inside a Beaker from Ashgrove, Fife and a vessel from North Mains, Strathallan. These could possibly indicate honey-based mead or flavoured ale, or alternatively might suggest the plant being placed on the grave as a scented flower .

In Welsh Mythology, Gwydion and Math created a woman out of oak blossom, broom, and meadowsweet and named her Blodeuwedd ("flower face").

It is known by many other names, and in Chaucer's The Knight's Tale it is known as Meadwort and was one of the ingredients in a drink called "save." It was also known as Bridewort, because it was strewn in churches for festivals and weddings, and often made into bridal garlands. In Europe, it took its name "queen of the meadow" for the way it can dominate a low-lying, damp meadow. In the 16th century, when it was customary to strew floors with rushes and herbs (both to give warmth underfoot and to overcome smells and infections), it was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. She desired it above all other herbs in her chambers.

In popular culture

  • A 2007 episode of the TV Series Supernatural ("A Very Supernatural Christmas") featured Meadowsweet as a component of a Pagan ritual.

Notes

References

External links

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