Sunday, June 27, 2010
For the European and west Asian herb in the same family, see Meadowsweet.Spiraea
Spiraea × arguta
Spiraea or meadowsweet, is a genus of about 80-100 species of shrubs in the family Rosaceae, subfamily Spiraeoideae. They are native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere, with the greatest diversity in eastern Asia.
Spiraea species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail, Emperor Moth, Grey Dagger, Hypercompe indecisa and Setaceous Hebrew Character.
The genus was formerly treated as also containing the herbaceous species now segregated into the genera Filipendula and Aruncus; recent genetic evidence has shown that Filipendula is only distantly related to Spiraea, belonging in the subfamily Rosoideae.Contents
Uses and toxicity
Spiraea (also known as Meadowsweet) is too woody to be used as an edible plant, but has a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans as an herbal tea. The entire plant contains methyl salicylate and other salicylates, compounds with similar medicinal properties of aspirin. Unlike other salicylate-bearing plants such as willow or poplar, meadowsweet's content of these analgesic compounds remain consistent from plant to plant. Unlike aspirin, meadowsweet is effective in treating stomach disorders in minute amounts. The salicylates in this plant are a highly effective analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and fever reducer, without the side effects attributed to aspirin. Compounds in this plant also contain bacteriostatic properties, and the tea of this plant was used by the Blackfeet Indians as an enema and vagina douche to treat infections of the bowels and vaginal area.
Spireas are among the easiest flowering shrubs to grow. Spirea have over 80 species, some of which have dozens of varieties. They are a member of the rose family and are tough plants. All spirea have small leaves and fine, twiggy branches.
There are two distinct kinds of spireas: the bridal wreath type, with clusters of white flowers on arching branches in spring; and the smaller, shrubby, much lower-growing type, which has pink, red or white flowers clustered at the end of upright branches from late spring through to fall.
Spireas are easy to transplant with spring and/or fall being the best planting times. These shrub prefers partial to full sun. Full sun and in open areas provide the best flowering.
Spireas are tolerant of many soils except extremely wet. The plant also likes mulch and summer watering.
After flowering has finished, prune the mostly spring-blooming, bridal wreath spireas. On the larger bridal wreath spriea types, thin out old, woody and weak individual canes to the ground annually. Periodical severe pruning may be necessary otherwise. With severe pruning, you will lose the bloom for that season.
Prune the smaller, summer-blooming, shrubby spireas in winter or early spring. They generally need less severe pruning than bridal wreath spireas. After flowers fade, a light pruning will produce a second flush of growth and additional flowers.
Japanese and bumald spireas should be pruned in early spring to promote the best flowering. Remove dead, diseased, and broken branches anytime.
Spireas can be severely pruned and will grow and flower again.
Spireas are not heavy feeders. Fertilize once a year in the fall, or early spring. Use an all-purpose slow-acting granular fertilizer on the soil around the base. This will provide consistent, steady nutrition for several months over the growing season.
As already mentioned, spireas are pretty tolerant shrubs. A thin layer of mulch will help keep down weeds, moderate soil temperature and retain moisture during hot spells.
Aspirin is the generic medical name for the chemical acetylsalicylic acid, a derivative of salicylic acid. Compounds of salicylic acid are found in some plants, notably white willow and meadowsweet (Spirea ulmaria). Acetyl- and spirea which inspired the name aspirin.
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