Meadowsweet is a commonly found herbaceous flower with an understated beauty and sweet fragrance. Meadowsweet has a rich cultural history filled with fascinating mythology and symbolism. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about Meadowsweet flower meaning, and cultural significance in the language of flowers.
- The Symbolic Meaning of Meadowsweet Flowers – The Essentials
- About Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
- The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
- Meadowsweet Flower Meaning FAQs:
- Meadowsweet Flower Meaning: The Final Word
The Symbolic Meaning of Meadowsweet Flowers – The Essentials
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) flowers symbolize peace, protection, beauty, and happiness. In the language of flowers, it means uselessness. Historically, it has also been associated with courtship and matrimony, as its changing scent was said to reflect the changes in new and old relationships.
About Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Filipendula ulmaria is a species of flowering perennial that belongs to the Filipendula genus within the Rosaceae (rose) plant family.
The species has numerous common names, including meadsweet, mead wort, bridewort, meadow wort, meadow queen, queen of the meadow, lady of the meadow, pride of the meadow, and doll of the meadow. Meadowsweet, however, is, of course, the most commonly used common name for the species.
Meadowsweet is a clumping, herbaceous, upright, perennial that can grow to be up to six feet tall. More commonly, however, it grows to be between three and four feet in height. Its leaves are pinnate and deeply lobed, growing larger toward the base of the plant. Tall, slender shoots produce irregular pannicles of small, delicate, fuzzy, creamy-white flowers.
Meadowsweet flowers are known for their unique and strong fragrance. The scent of meadowsweet flowers has been described in many ways, including:
Whatever meadowsweet might smell like to you, there’s no doubt that it smells nice to the pollinators it attracts.
History and Origins of Meadowsweet
Filipendula ulmaria are native to the majority of the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, except for the most southern and eastern parts of the continents. It has been naturalized in parts of Canada and the United States where it is now considered to be a noxious weed.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) Etymology
The common name “meadowsweet” does not refer to a sweet flower of the meadows but rather a flower that was commonly used to sweeten mead in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The genus name Filipendula comes from two Latin words, filum (thread) and pendulus (hanging). Together, they describe the thread-like root fibers that hang from the plant’s root system.
The specific epithet ulmaria comes from the Latin word ulmus which means elm. This likely describes the similarity between the meadowsweet’s foliage and that of an elm tree.
Uses and Benefits of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Fragrance and Strewing Herbs
Meadowsweet’s flowers have a strong and pleasant fragrance which resulted in their popular use as strewing flowers. Strewing fragrant flowers and herbs over the floors of a home used to be a common practice. It was done to help cover unpleasant scents that might be trapped indoors, to create a warmer and drier floor, and to help prevent infections and illness.
Today, meadowsweet is still popularly dried and included in fragrant potpourri mixes.
Thanks to its fragrant flowers, meadowsweet has several culinary applications. Its flowers and leaves have been brewed for tea. Its flowers have been used to sweeten and flavor mead, wine, beer, and vinegar. It has also been used to add a slight almond-like flavor to jams and desserts such as panna cotta.
Meadowsweet root can produce a natural black dye by using a copper dye fixative.
The meadowsweet herb has a long history of medicinal use. The entire plant has been used as an antacid treatment to relieve heartburn and acid reflux. Its tea has been used to address fever, infections, rheumatism, and gout.
Additionally, the plant contains various chemical compounds such as essential oils, salicin, flavone glycosides, and tannins that have medicinal uses.
The plant is partially responsible for aspirin development as in 1838, the Italian chemist Raffaele Piria extracted salicylic acid from meadowsweet buds. Several years later, in 1899, research scientists at Bayer synthesized acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) from salicylic acid that had been sourced from meadowsweet.
Meadowsweet flowers attract various pollinators, including bees, butterflies, moths, flies, and other insects.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Meadowsweet Flower Meaning and Symbolism
Meadowsweet symbolizes peace, protection, beauty, and happiness. It is also associated with courtship and matrimony, as ‘courtship and matrimony’ and ‘bridewort’ were old common names for these flowers. The association with courtship and matrimony was due to the sweet smell of the flowers and the astringent fragrance they would emit after wilting.
The Meaning and Symbolism of Meadowsweet in the Language of Flowers
In texts on the Victorian language of flowers (floriography), meadowsweet symbolizes uselessness.
Meadowsweet Color and Its Meaning and Symbolism
Meadowsweet flowers only bloom with white flowers. In flowers, the color white traditionally symbolizes purity, chastity, and innocence as well as mourning and sympathy.
Meadowsweet in Welsh Mythology and Folklore
Meadowsweet makes a prominent appearance in one story from a collection of stories found in the Mabinogion (Welsh manuscripts preserved from medieval times). In this story, Math and Gwydion, who were magicians, combined flowers from broom, oak, and meadowsweet plants to create a beautiful woman named Blodeuwedd. Her name literally translates to ‘flower face.’ This woman marries a hero named Lleu Llaw Gyffes. However, she is sadly eventually turned into an owl who is shunned, disliked, and mistrusted by all of the other birds.
Meadowsweet has been associated with bad luck and life-threatening danger in Wales, at least until the early part of the 20th century. As old wives’ tales warned that falling asleep in a room where meadowsweet flowers are present would mean that the person’s death was imminent and inevitable. Additionally, it was thought to be dangerous to sleep in a field where meadowsweet was growing.
Meadowsweet in Irish Folklore
Meadowsweet also has a notable place in Irish mythology and folklore. It was said that Áine (the Irish goddess of Munster who was a protector of animals, the environment, and women) gave meadowsweet its fragrance.
The plant’s Gaelic name Crios Cú Chulainn is also the name of a heroic warrior featured in the stories of the Ulster Cycle. This warrior was fearsome in battle but suffered from anger management problems outside of war, and his ire was only soothed by bathing in meadowsweet and carrying the flowers in his belt.
Meadowsweet and the Queen of England
Meadowsweet were Queen Elizabeth I of England’s favorite herb and flower for covering the floors of her chambers when this was a common practice for providing warmth and promoting wellness. Her reign began in November 1558 and lasted until her death in 1603.
Meadowsweet and Ancient Burial Sites
Inside a cairn constructed in the Bronze Age at Fan Foel, Carmarthenshire, archeologists have found meadowsweet along with the cremated remains of one animal and three people. Meadowsweet and remains have also been found at Ashgrove, Fife, and North Mains, Strathallan.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Meadowsweet is a popular flower used at weddings due to its historical association with courtship and matrimony and its white color, sweet fragrance, and soft flower pannicles.
It can also be a great blossom to include in “get well” bouquets, sympathy flowers, and birthday flowers since it can wish a recipient peace, protection, beauty, and happiness.
Meadowsweet Flower Meaning FAQs:
What do meadowsweet flowers symbolize?
Meadowsweet symbolizes peace, protection, beauty, and happiness. In the Victorian language of flowers, it means uselessness. Historically, the flower has also been associated with courtship and matrimony, as its changing scent, turning from sweet to bitter, was said to reflect the changes in new and old relationships.
Do meadowsweet flowers symbolize love?
Meadowsweet flowers symbolize peace, protection, beauty, happiness, and uselessness. In the past, courtship and matrimony were associated because the flowers’ fragrance turns from sweet to bitter as the blossoms wilt, and this was thought to represent the changes in new and old relationships.
Do meadowsweet flowers come back every year?
Yes, meadowsweet flowers are perennials that return yearly when grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9.
How long do meadowsweet flowers last?
Meadowsweet flowers bloom from late spring until fall, and the blossoms typically last for one to two months.
Are meadowsweet flowers toxic?
Meadowsweet flowers are not considered to be toxic. However, they can cause harm when ingested by dogs or cats with renal health problems or sensitivities to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Meadowsweet Flower Meaning: The Final Word
Meadowsweet has a fascinating cultural history and rich symbolism that combines with its naturally understated beauty to be a truly incredible flower.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.