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Dropwort

Filipendula vulgaris

  • Name also: Fern-leaf Dropwort
  • Family: Rose Family – Rosaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rhizomatous, part of root tuberous.
  • Height: 30–50 cm (12–20 in.). Stem rigid, (almost) glabrous, stem leaves 1–3.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), creamy white–slightly reddish, 10–15 mm (0.4–0.6 in.) broad; petals (five to) six, 6–8 mm (0.24–0.32 in.) long. Calyx (5–)6-lobed. Stamens many. Gynoecium separate, pistils several. Inflorescence a wide compound corymb. Flower lacking fragrance.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette and alternate on stem, stalked–stalkless, stipulate. Blade pinnate–lobed, 15–30-paired, with terminal leaflet. Leaflets large-toothed–shallowly lobed, glabrous, weakly fragrant. Small leaflets intermixed with large ones.
  • Fruit: Flat, straight, hairy, 3–4 mm (0.12–0.16 in.) long achene, several together.
  • Habitat: Dryish banks, embankments, meadows, hillside meadows, rocks. Calciphile.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Dropwort is common in Finland on the Åland Islands, the south-western archipelago and along the south-western coast of the mainland, but it also grows further to the east along the southern shore and in southern Häme. It is quite a precise marker of Bronze and Iron Age settlements, and abundant stands are often situated on prehistoric dwelling sites. There are many people who believe that the activities of people from the metal ages determined dropwort’s boundaries. People have certainly created plenty new habitats for dropwort, so this scarce meadow plant has been able to spread and become more abundant. Other people are of the opinion that the species is from continental Europe and the Siberian steppes, and that it only arrived in Finland with people.

Dropwort grows starchy tubers about as thick as a person’s little finger on the end of its slim roots to help it spread and perhaps also store water for dry spells. Dropwort’s genus’s scientific name Filipendula comes from the Latin words filum ‘filament’ and pendulus ‘pendulous’ and refers specifically to these delicate tubers. The long root tubers were used at least in the days of the Vikings as food, which has lent credence to the opinion that the plant was intentionally spread to places where people lived. Domestic pigs that are free to roam like to sniff out the tubers and eat them. Apart from its tubers, the plant also spreads through its seeds, and its main pollinators are flies and honey bees.

At first glance dropwort can look like its larger relative meadowsweet (F. ulmaria), which is common all over Finland. Dropwort’s leaves are however concentrated in a basal rosette and they have many more leaflets. Also its root tubers and preference for clearly drier habitats differentiates the two species. Plants in the genus typically have a strong fragrance, but dropwort has almost none.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family

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