MEADOWSWEET (Filipendula ulmaria)

Europe, W Asia

Meadowsweet enhanced


A perennial herb that grows throughout the country, Meadowsweet likes partial sun, damp ground & wet meadows. Its strong reddish brown stems can reach over 2 metres in height & may need staking.

Fresh-looking leaves are dark green & pleated. Each spring, a froth of tiny CREAM flowers with the fragrance of vanilla appears at the top of the stems & lasts till late summer.

‘Like plumes of candy floss on sticks’


 Collins 2009


Sacred to the Druids, Meadowsweet was laid on floors in the Middle Ages as a fragrant strewing herb to be walked on, or on wooden church pews to be sat on.

For medieval wedding festivals it was strewn with Salad Burnet, which smells of cucumber.

Jacqueline Hodson, The Smell of the Middle Ages,

Scents of the Middle Ages,


‘ …flowery tops contain Salicylic acid – nature’s aspirin’. In 1897, chemists at Bayer produced synthetically altered salicin, which helps alleviate fever, headache and pain. They named it Aspirin (acetyl + spiraea ulmaria) after the plant’s earlier botanical name, Spiraea ulmaria.

Meadowsweet foliage April 2015

Meadowsweet foliage April 2015

WEBSITE -Meadowsweet crop





‘The name meadowsweet is said to come, not from the fact that it grows in meadows as one would expect, but from its early use to flavour mead, evolving from Middle English Medewurte, as it appears in Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale. 

‘In Irish mythology, Cú Chulainn, the warlike hero of the Ulster Cycle, is said to have used meadowsweet baths to calm his rages and fevers…

‘The smell is very distinctive and I have heard it compared to everything from deep heat to marzipan to pickled cucumber! To me it smells sweetly fragrant with an edge of the disinfectant TCP that I remember from childhood.’ Lucinda Warner

The extensive Whispering Earth website has more herbal & historical details of Meadowsweet.

enlarged Honeybee on Meadowsweet



Bees’ Favourite.

 The pollen & nectar of its flowers animate the many bees who visit this wildflower for its nectar, as can be seen on our videos. Bees, moths, dragonflies, hoverflies, ladybirds & other pollinators are keen on Meadowsweet.



RHS Perfect for Pollinators
Meadowsweet is on the RHS list of plants rated Perfect for Pollinators. Feeding on pollen & nectar, these insects transfer pollen & increase seed set & fruit development.

Find out more at:



Other names:  Brideswort, Courtship and Marriage, Crios Chu-chulainn [ the belt of mythological Ulster hero Cú Chulainn in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland], Dolloff, Dropwort, Goat’s Beard, Hayriff, Honey-flower, Kiss Me Quick, Lady of the Meadow, Meadow-Wort, Meadswort, Meadsweet, Mountain Spirea, Pride of the Meadow, Quaker Lady, Queen of the Ditch, Queen of the Meadow.

meadowsweet with honeybee

Meadowsweet and Purple Loosestrife


Our Meadowsweet patch began life as a rooted stem, dug up one Volunteer Day as we replanted the Gillespie Road park entrance. ‘Anyone want some Meadowsweet?’

Given away by the conservation team at the Ecology Centre, a rooted stem of the plant was brought back to the wildlife garden & planted in the shade of the fern bed, where it has thrived. No pests or diseases trouble it.