Improvement status: Cultivated material
Seeds per packet: ~80
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
Meadowsweet is a perennial herb in the Rose family, native to Europe and Western Asia, but widely naturalized in North America. It favors damp meadows and can come to dominate that habitat. The pretty, white-flowering plant has a long history of use by humans, from food and medicine to potpurri and bridal garlands. In fact, meadowsweet was once the pre-eminent "strewing herb" of Europe, meaning it was mixed with reeds, rushes, and/or straw and "strewn" on the floor of every room of a dwelling, including bedrooms and dining rooms. The purpose was to exude a pleasant scent (often in lieu of bathing) and to keep away pests. England's King Charles II created the post of "Royal Herb Strewer" in 1660, and Queen Elizabeth I is said to have favored meadowsweet as a strewing herb above any other.
Meadowsweet is also known as "mead wort," alluding to its popularity as a flavoring for mead. It is also used to flavor other fermented beverages, liquers, and jams and jellies. The flavor it imparts is said to be a subtle almond flavor. Medicinally, it has been used for fever, infections, gout, and rheumatism. The plant contains salicylic acid, among other chemicals, and in 1897 German chemists working for Bayer AG used meadowsweet to create a lower-acid formulation of salicylic acid (intended to be less harsh on the stomach). The new drug was officially known as acetylsalicylic acid, and they christened it "aspirin" after what was then the botanical name for meadowsweet (Spiraea ulmaria). It can also make a natural black dye by use of a copper mordant. These seeds come from Aaron Parker of Edgewood Nursery in Maine.