AskDefine | Define spiraea

Dictionary Definition



1 a Japanese shrub that resembles members of the genus Spiraea; widely cultivated in many varieties for its dense panicles of flowers in many colors; often forced by florists for Easter blooming [syn: spirea, Astilbe japonica]
2 any rosaceous plant of the genus Spiraea; has sprays of small white or pink flowers [syn: spirea]
3 a dicotyledonous genus of the family Rosaceae [syn: genus Spiraea]

Extensive Definition

For the European and west Asian herb, see Meadowsweet.
Spiraea (Meadowsweet) is a genus of about 80-100 species of shrubs in the 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.

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 affects 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.
In pure form, methyl salicylate is toxic, especially when taken internally. The lowest published lethal dose is 101 mg/kg body weight in adult humans. It has proven fatal to small children in doses as small as 4 mL. A 17 year-old cross-country runner at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island, died April 3, 2007, after her body absorbed high levels of methyl salicylate through excessive use of topical muscle-pain relief products. Methyl Salicylate is used as a rubefacient in deep heating liniments, and in small amounts as a flavoring agent in chewing gums and other products at no more than 0.04%.

Selected species

  • Spiraea alba (Broadleaf White Spirea) ("Meadowsweet")
  • Spiraea amoena
  • Spiraea arcuata
  • Spiraea baldschuanica
  • Spiraea bella
  • Spiraea betulifolia
  • Spiraea blumei
  • Spiraea calcicola
  • Spiraea cana
  • Spiraea canescens
  • Spiraea cantoniensis
  • Spiraea chamaedryfolia
  • Spiraea crenata
  • Spiraea decumbens
  • Spiraea densiflora
  • Spiraea douglasii (Hardhack)
  • Spiraea gemmata
  • Spiraea henryi
  • Spiraea hypericifolia
  • Spiraea japonica (Japanese Spiraea)
  • Spiraea latifolia
  • Spiraea lobata
  • Spiraea longigemmis
  • Spiraea media
  • Spiraea micrantha
  • Spiraea miyabei
  • Spiraea mollifolia
  • Spiraea nervosa
  • Spiraea nipponica
  • Spiraea prunifolia (Bridalwreath Spiraea)
  • Spiraea pubescens
  • Spiraea rosthornii
  • Spiraea salicifolia (Bridewort Spiraea)
  • Spiraea sargentiana
  • Spiraea thunbergii
  • Spiraea tomentosa (Steeplebush)
  • Spiraea trichocarpa
  • Spiraea trilobata
  • Spiraea veitchii
  • Spiraea virginiana
  • Spiraea wilsonii
  • Spiraea yunnanensis
There are also numerous named hybrids, some occurring in the wild, others bred in gardens; some are important ornamental plants:
  • Spiraea × arguta (S. × multiflora × S. thunbergii)
  • Spiraea × billardii (S. douglasii × S. salicifolia)
  • Spiraea × blanda (S. nervosa × S. cantoniensis)
  • Spiraea × brachybotrys (S. canescens × S. douglasii)
  • Spiraea × bumalda (S. japonica × S. albiflora)
  • Spiraea × cinerea (S. hypericifolia × S. cana)
  • Spiraea × conspicua (S. japonica × S. latifolia)
  • Spiraea × fontenaysii (S. canescens × S. salicifolia)
  • Spiraea × foxii (S. japonica × S. betulifolia)
  • Spiraea × gieseleriana (S. cana × S. chamaedryfolia)
  • Spiraea × macrothyrsa (S. douglasii × S. latifolia)
  • Spiraea × multiflora (S. crenata × S. hypericifolia)
  • Spiraea × notha (S. betulifolia × S. latifolia)
  • Spiraea × nudiflora (S. chamaedryfolia × S. bella)
  • Spiraea × pikoviensis (S. crenata × S. media)
  • Spiraea × pyramidata (S. betulifolia × S. douglasii)
  • Spiraea × revirescens (S. amoena × S. japonica)
  • Spiraea × sanssouciana (S. japonica × S. douglasii)
  • Spiraea × schinabeckii (S. chamaedryfolia × S. trilobata)
  • Spiraea × semperflorens (S. japonica × S. salicifolia)
  • Spiraea × vanhouttei (S. trilobata × S. cantoniensis)
  • Spiraea × watsoniana (S. douglasii × S. densiflora)


spiraea in Danish: Spiræa
spiraea in German: Spiersträucher
spiraea in Spanish: Spiraea
spiraea in French: Spirée
spiraea in Georgian: გრაკლა
spiraea in Lithuanian: Lanksva
spiraea in Polish: Tawuła
spiraea in Portuguese: Spiraea
spiraea in Northern Sami: Miesttaskážirat
spiraea in Finnish: Pensasangervot
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