Barbe de Bouc, Barbe de Chèvre, Bridewort, Dolloff, Dropwort, Fausse Spirée, Filipendula, Filipendula ulmaria, Filipendule, Lady of the Meadow, Mariée de la Prairie, Meadow Queen, Meadow Sweet, Meadow-Wart, Petite Reine, Queen of the Meadow, Racine de Gravier, Reina de los Prados, Reine de la Prairie, Reine des Prés, Reine-des-Prés, Spiraeae Flos, Spireae Herba, Spiraea ulmaria, Spirée Ulmaire, Ulmaria.
I took this nom de guerre at random, really. I thought, however, that I might look into the properties and characteristics of meadowsweet a little more deeply, and found out some lovely things.
Filipendula ulmaria thrives in marshy ground. It is a herb of many properties, being used as a diuretic, painkiller, bloodthinner, antiseptic, and as a treatment for rheumatism, gout, infections, and fever. Its former botanical name, Spiraea ulmaria, gave rise to the name of our old standby, aspirin, since the plant contains salicylic acid. A favourite herb of Elizabeth I, its sweet smell (the leaves and flowers have different, enticing scents) made it a popular choice for strewing on floors to sweeten rooms in earlier days or for scentinglinen. It was used to flavour syrups and jams, beer, wine and mead and is reputed to have been found at the site of a Bronze Age burial. There is a recipe for meadowsweet champagne here.
In the Mabinogion, Blodeuwydd is the lady made from the flowers of broom, meadowsweet and oak by the magicians Math and Gwydion as a wife for the hero Lleu Llaw Gyffes. The fickle Blodeuwydd, however, deceives Llew with another and the two plot to kill her husband. Discovered, she is turned into an owl, hated by all other birds:
“You will not dare to show your face ever again in the light of day ever again, and that will be because of enmity between you and all other birds. It will be in their nature to harass you and despise you wherever they find you. And you will not lose your name – that will always be ‘Bloddeuwedd (Flower-face)’ “
But, as a member of the rose family, it is only fitting that meadowsweet is also linked with Our Lady through an old legend in which the Blessed Virgin Mary herself planted the herb. I am delighted, I say, delighted.
Image rights here.