Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Hardhack Steeplebush, Hardhack, Spiraea, Douglas' Meadowsweet -- SPIRAEA DOUGLASII

from the the July 12, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

A woody shrub forms thickets along muddy shores of local ponds and streams. Its pink spires of closely packed, small flowers very prettily form a rosy frame to green waters surrounded by blue- green, mostly evergreen forest. You can see some flowering branches beside the pond above my place above.

Known as Hardhack Steeplebush, Hardhack Spiraea, Douglas' Meadowsweet and other names, it's SPIRAEA DOUGLASII, thus closely related to garden spiraeas. A close-up of a flower shows typical spiraea features below:

Hardhack Steeplebush, Hardhack, Spiraea, Douglas' Meadowsweet -- SPIRAEA DOUGLASII

Spiraeas belong to the Rose Family so it's not surprising that Spiraea blossoms suggest pink peach or plum flowers, which also are Rose Family members. When sun shines on the flower clusters, the blossoms' many slender, pink-filamented stamens create a radiant, pink halo around the inflorescences.

The shrub usually stands about head high and is so attractive that it's sold as an ornamental. Later in the year the pink flower clusters give way to dark brown bunches of fruits which hang on the branches through winter. The thickets they form along pond edges certainly make good hiding places for wildlife. The Lummi tribe of western Washington brewed a tea of the tiny seeds to help against diarrhea.

The name Hardhack Steeplebush is pretty descriptive: The bush is hard to hack, and its flower clusters are formed like church steeples. This species is native from southern Alaska to California, east to Idaho. The genus Spiraea embraces 80-100 species native to temperate North America, but most Spiraea species are found in eastern Asia. The most famous Spiraea, the gardener's Bridal Wreath, is from China and Japan.