Nature table: Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet is starting to come into flower and will continue to bloom until the early autumn.

It is a common wild flower in wet meadows, canal and river banks, fens and wet woods, with a preference for lime-rich soils. The small, cream-coloured flowers are carried in dense clusters and have a strong, sweet fragrance. The leaves, rather strangely, have a completely different scent. They are grey below and green above, deeply indented and carried on reddish stalks.

The whole plant can grow to a height of 70cm to 80cm but is frequently smaller. The entire plant, and the flowers in particular, figure strongly in folk medicine and at one time meadowsweet was strewn on floors to act as a sort of air freshener. In fact it was discovered in the nineteenth century that it contains salicylic acid which means that it has anti-bacterial properties as well as smelling nice. Salicylic acid is the active ingredient in aspirin. However, asthma sufferers should be wary of exposure to the flower because it may provoke an attack.


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