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Queen of the meadow

(Filipendula ulmaria)

Photo of queen of the meadow
Photo credit: Stephen Solheim

An upright, clump-forming perennial of moist habitats. Flowers are showy, erect clusters of fragrant, white blooms. Typically grows three to four feet in height, sometimes reaching up to six feet.

Overview

Other names for this plant 
  • Common names: meadowsweet, mead wort, steeplebush, bridewort
  • Scientific names: Spiraea ulmaria, Ulmaria pentapetala
Ecological threat:
  • Invades wetlands, bogs, fens, marshes, floodplain forests, moist meadows, freshwater estuaries, wet rock ledges and roadside ditches.
  • Crowds out native vegetation in favored habitats.
  • Reproduces vegetatively as well as by seed. Readily self-seeds.
  • Prefers fluctuating water levels, seeds can float for several weeks.
Overview map of queen of the meadow classification in WI
Restricted (orange) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for queen of the meadow was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.

Identification

Leaves & stems: Pinnately compound dark-green leaves with five pairs of leaflets, coarsely toothed and deeply veined. Leaves are hairy and whitish on the undersides. Stems are woody at the base. Tiny leaflets occur on stems between the leaves.

Flowers: Showy and fragrant. Branching panicles or cymes (erect clusters) of small, white-cream colored flowers. Individual flowers have five petals and numerous stamens, giving the flowers a "fuzzy" appearance.

Fruits & seeds: Spherical, irregular and twisting. Resembles cultivated garden Nasturtium seeds.

Roots: Produces rhizomes (stem-roots), which aid in their spread.

Similar species: Filipendula rubra is a common ornamental plant native to the southeastern United States. Leaves are palmately compound and flowers are pink in color.

Distribution

See the reported locations of queen of the meadow in Wisconsin.

Do you know of additional populations? Send us a report.

Control

Mechanical
  • Dig up the entire plant, being sure to remove the entire root system, as plants spread by rhizomes.
  • Cut or mow flowering tops prior to maturation to prevent seed-set. Continual cutting and mowing are needed as plants re-sprout.
Chemical
  • Use an aquatically-approval herbicide. Monitor for re-sprouts.

Photos

View pictures of queen of the meadow in our photo gallery.

Resources

Sources for content
  • Wisconsin State Herbarium (WISFLORA), Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin.
  • K. Falinska, M. Lembicz, A. Jarmolowski, L. Borkowska, Polish Journal of Ecology. 2010. “Patterns of Genetic Diversity in Populations of Filipendula Ulmaria at Different Stages of Succession on a meadow abandoned for 30 years” p. 27–40.
  • Rozhanskaya O.A., 1983: The effect of fertilizers and repeated mowing on the growth and development of the queen of the meadows filipendula ulmaria. Biologicheskie Nauki (Moscow): 8-63.
Links for more information