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Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) 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.
The stems are 1–2 m 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.
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.
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 to strew 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 the treatment of diarrhoea. The flowers, when made into a tea, are a comfort to flu sufferers. Dried, the flowers make lovely pot pourri.