under the lens - Filipendula ulmaria

Filipendula ulmaria / Meadowsweet

Often discovered by scent before sight, meadowsweet fills the edges between the meadows and streams, lending the mid-summer air their honey-sweet, namesake fragrance. I most often stumble across their tall, dense stands on warm evenings when their scent is strongest, and when their creamy, cloud-like flowers glow against the darkening sky.
 

Filipendula-ulmaria.jpg

Latin name: Filipendula ulmaria
Common name: Meadowsweet
Family: Rosaceae
Distribution: Central Europe
Habitat: Wet meadows and riperian areas
Bloom Time: June - August
Other: Medicinal, Edible (flowers, leaves, roots); Natural dye (root)

A rigid plant with a height of up to 1.2 meters, it can be identified by its reddish stem, and its alternating elm-like leaves (referenced by the latin name ulmaria) that persist into winter. The closely clustered flowers develop into round, spirally furrowed composite fruits, distinguishing the plant from others in its genus. Is often found in large colonies, whose density discourages growth of smaller herbs, in the wet soils of unmown meadows, streambanks, and ditches.

 photograph: “meadowsweet” by  nz_willowherb , licensed under  CC BY-NC 2.0  / cropped from original

photograph: “meadowsweet” by nz_willowherb, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 / cropped from original

The flowers’ sweet fragrance has made them a popular flavoring, used in mead, beer, and other cordials, and more recently in baking. The intensity of the smell increases when dried, making it an effective tea plant and potpourri, used strewn on the floors of castles in renaissance times to perfume the air for festivals.

When rubbed, the plant releases a distinctly more medicinal smell, revealing the presence of salicylic acid and salicin- which were isolated from the plant and are now synthetically manufactured and sold as Asprin. The naturally occurring combination of these chemicals provided a pain killer that is less upsetting to the digestive system than the pure salicylic acid previously used-  a major development in modern medicine. Used traditionally as an anti-inflammatory for gout, rheumatism, and fever, it is mostly consumed today as a tea for relief of heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea. Consumption should be avoided by individuals with salicylate sensitivity.

Symbolically, it was an important ritual plant for the Druids, associated with transitions such as marriage or death. Found at multiple Bronze Age burial sites, it has also been given the name brideswort for its later use in bridal bouquets.


Interested in trying some meadowsweet recipes? Check out the following:

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  @ amwegesrand

Photo: @amwegesrand

Tahini-Meadowsweet Cookies made with fresh meadowsweet blossoms, from herbal educator Christina Bachl-Hoffman (recipe in German).

 

Meadowsweet Fizzzzz, a recipe from the foragers at The Botanist for a fizzy meadowsweet mixer to complement their gin.

 

For instructions for how to concoct a meadowsweet tincture used to relieve symptoms of acid reflux (and for many other great recipes and information), check out Kew Garden’s publication “The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants”.


Sources:

1. Buchart, K. (2016, August) Echtes Mädesüss: Filipendula ulmaria. Servus in Stadt & Land, 58-59.

2. “Echtes Mädesüss”. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Web: August 12, 2017. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echtes_M%C3%A4des%C3%BC%C3%9F

3. “Filipendula ulmeria”. Plants for a Future. Plants for a Future: August 12, 2017. http://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Filipendula+ulmaria

4. “Filipendula ulmeria”. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Web: August 12, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filipendula_ulmaria

5. “Meadowsweet”. NatureGate. Luonto Echtes Mädesüss Portti, Web: August 12, 2017. http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/kukkakasvit/meadowsweet

6. Simmonds, M; Howes, M.J; Irving, J. (2016). The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants: An A-Z of Healing Plants and Home Remedies. London: Francis Lincoln Limited