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White Meadowsweet, Narrowleaf Meadowsweet, Eastern Meadowsweet, Broadleaf Meadowsweet - Spiraea alba


Family: Rosaceae - Rose family Genus Common Name: Spiraea Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Shrub
Spiraea alba - White Meadowsweet, Narrowleaf Meadowsweet, Eastern Meadowsweet, Broadleaf Meadowsweet. Spiraea is a genus of 100 to 120 species of shrubs found mostly in the northern hemisphere; nearly 20 are found in North America. Spiraea alba, White Meadowsweet, is found in all of the southern tier of the Canadian provinces, except British Columbia, and in the United States, it is primarily found in the north-central and northeast states, with its range extending south in the Appalachians as far south as Georgia.

There are two varieties of Spiraea alba - var. alba and var. latifolia. The key differentiator is the leaf size; in var. alba the leaf is 3 to 4 times longer than it is wide (Narrowleaf Meadowsweet), and in var. latifolia the leaf is only 2 to 3 times longer than it is wide (Broadleaf Meadowsweet.) However, Some authorities consider var. latifolia to be a separate species - Spiraea latifolia. Var. latifolia prefers the drier habitat of meadows, fields, and forest margins, and can be found at higher elevations, up to 4000 feet. Var. alba is found at lower elevations, to about 1,000 feet, and can be found in wetlands, river and lake edges, and moist open sites. The plants on this page were photographed near the waters edge on islands in Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. In areas where both varieties are found, they will hybridize.

Spiraea alba is listed as Endangered in Kentucky and Tennessee, Special Concern in Georgia (as Spiraea latifolia.)

Found in:
CT, DC, DE, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SD, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV

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Spiraea alba

Distribution of Spiraea alba in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 14 Dec 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Baie Fine of Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada Date: 2015-August-13Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The inflorescence of White Meadowsweet is a panicle - multiple racemes of pedicellate flowers. The petals are usually white but may be tinged pink.
Spiraea alba

Site: Baie Fine of Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada Date: 2015-August-13Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
As with most members of Rosaceae, the flowers of Spiraea alba have 5 petals, which are usually white. The flowers are about .25 inches across, and will have 30 to 50 stamens.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Spiraea alba

Site: Baie Fine of Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada Date: 2015-August-13Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The stem of White Meadowsweet is usually unbranched, except in the inflorescence. The stems may be grey, dark brown, grey-black, or as in this photo, reddish. The leaves are alternate.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Spiraea alba

Site: Baie Fine of Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada Date: 2015-August-13Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The leaves are on short petioles and are up to about 4 inches long. The base of the leaf is wedge-shaped (cuneate) or rounded, and the leaf margins are serrate. The veins are pinnate, with the secondary veins not being particularly prominent. These secondary veins terminate at the leaf margin (craspedodromous.)
Click on the photo for a larger image
Spiraea alba

Site: Covered Portage Trail, Ontario, Canada Date: 2015-August-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
White Meadowsweet stems are usually unbranched except in the upper part of the plant near the inflorescence, where it may branch at the leaf axils.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Spiraea alba

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer