Information on Meadowsweet

Common Name: Meadowsweet
Scientific Name: Filipendula ulmaria
Irish Name: Airgead luachra
Family Group: Rosaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

Click for list of all flowering by month
Meadowsweet could sometimes be confused with:


Creamy, perennial of damp waysides, meadows, marshes and woods, this tall, hairless plant flowers throughout Ireland from June to September. With a heavy fragrance, it carries its numerous 5-6 petalled flowers in dense, clusters on furrowed, reddish stems.  Its dark green leaves are long-stalked and pinnate with pale undersides. The flower heads are frequently visited by bees attracted by the heavy scent which can be so evocative of summer days in the countryside.  In spite of this fragrance, the flowers produce no nectar.  Insects, however, don't realise this but their visits serve to fertilise the plants which are heavy with pollen. A peculiarity of this flower is that the scent of the leaves is quite different from that of the flowers, the leaves having a heavy almond-like aroma whereas the flowers have a strong sweet smell. This is a native plant belonging to the family Rosaceae.

I first identified this plant in Derrynane, Co Kerry in 1976 and photographed it in Vicarstown, Co Kildare beside the Grand Canal in 2002.  

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Meadowsweet's herbal uses had a base in scientific fact, in common with many other folk and herbal remedies.  In the 19th century, chemists isolated salicylic acid from Meadowsweet.  The acid was a disinfectant so it not only made rooms smell better but helped the fight against bacteria.  It was a painkiller and anti-inflammatory but hard on the stomach.  Only after it was synthesised did it become an acceptable candidate for mass production and sold in tablet form as 'aspirin' – 'a' for acetyl and ' –spirin' for Spirea, the original botanical name for Meadowsweet.