Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Spiraea douglasii - Hardhack

Family: (Rose family) [E-flora]

Other Names: Douglas' spirea (ssp. douglasii); Menzies' spirea (ssp. menziesii); pink spirea; rose spirea [E-flora]

"Spiraea douglasii is a deciduous Shrub growing to 2.5 m (8ft 2in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from Jun to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]


"General: Low to medium shrub, 0.5-2.5 m tall, from creeping rhizome, often forming thickets; stems erect, much-branched, the slender branchlets usually somewhat woolly, later becoming smooth." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Leaves: Alternate, deciduous, short-stalked, oblong to egg-shaped, 3-10 cm long, coarsely toothed mostly above the middle, dark green and smooth above, paler and woolly-hairy to smooth beneath." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Flowers: Inflorescence a branched, narrowly conic to cylindric, dense terminal cluster of numerous small flowers, the cluster several times longer than broad, the branches often woolly; corollas deep to pale pink, the petals 5, egg-shaped to round-elliptic, about 2 mm long; calyces fine-hairy to nearly smooth on the outside, 5-lobed, the lobes triangular, bent back, about 1 mm long; ovaries superior; stamens numerous." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Fruits: Follicles, usually 5, short-beaked, 2-3 mm long, somewhat leathery, smooth except sometimes a few long hairs along the suture, shining; seeds several, spindle-shaped." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Fens, swamps, bogs, streambanks, lake margins, and moist to wet thickets and open forests in the lowland and montane zones; common throughout BC, S of about 56oN; S to CA and ID." [IFBC-E-flora] "Almost always found in wet soils in redwood and red fir forests from sea level to elevations of 2100 metres[276]. Western N. America. Rarely naturalized in Britain[17]." [PFAF]

Two subspecies occur in BC:
1. Leaves greyish-woolly beneath; plants of the coast................... ssp. douglasii
1. Leaves smooth to hairy, but not greyish-woolly beneath; plants from throughout southern two-thirds of BC.................. ssp. menziesii (Hook.) Calder & Taylor

Ecological Indicator Information

"A shade-intolerant, submontane to subalpine, Western North American deciduous shrub distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in cool mesothermal climates on very moist to wet, nitrogen-medium soils; its occurrence decreases with increasing latitude, elevation, and continentality. Common, occasionally dominant, in semi-terrestrial communities and open-canopy forests on disturbed water-receiving and water-collecting sites. Tolerates fluctuating groundwater tables. Often associated with Gaultheria shallon, Juncus effusus, Myrica gale, or R..spectabilis. Characteristic of wetlands."[IFBC-E-flora]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Tolerates most soils[200], but prefers a good loamy soil, abundant moisture and full sunlight[11, 200]. Prefers a moist lime-free soil[182], plants quickly become chlorotic on chalk soils[200]. A very cold hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -25°c[200]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[11]. A rampant suckering shrub, it quickly produces dense thickets and can be used for large-scale naturalistic plantings[200]. It is apt to get thin and poor unless divided up fairly regularly and replanted in fairly good soil[1]." [PFAF]

"Seed - we have no information for this species but suggest sowing the seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame if possible. It is likely to require stratification before it germinates, so stored seed should be sown in a cold frame as early in the year as you receive it. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a light sandy soil a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, 15cm long, October/November in an outdoor frame[200]. Another report says that September is a good time to do this[11]. Division of suckers in early spring[200]. They can be planted out straight into their permanent positions." [PFAF]


"Shrub, unarmed. Leaf: simple, oblong to (ob)ovate, generally serrate, deciduous; stipules generally 0; petiole 0–short. Inflorescence: raceme or panicle, many-flowered, bracted; pedicel bractlet generally 1, at top, generally linear. Flower: hypanthium obconic to bell-shaped, bractlets 0; sepals spreading to erect; petals spreading, pink to rose; stamens 15–many; pistils 5, opposite petals, free or fused at base, surrounded by hypanthium, ovaries superior, styles ± terminal, beak-like in fruit, stigmas head-like. Fruit: follicles 5, dehiscent along adaxial, top of abaxial suture. Seed: ± fusiform; coats membranous.
± 50 species: northern temperate. (Greek: shrub)" [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Spiraea douglasii & ssp. douglasii - Hardhack [E-flora]
  2. Spiraea splendens - Subalpine Spirea [E-flora]

Spiraea splendens - Subalpine Spirea

Other Names: Rose meadowsweet. [E-flora]


"General: Low shrub, 30-100 cm tall, from strong creeping rhizome; stems erect to spreading, smooth, with thin wiry branches." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Leaves: Alternate, deciduous, short-stalked, oval to oblong-elliptic, 1.5-4 cm long, blunt-toothed mostly above the middle, bright green above, paler and prominently veined below, smooth on both surfaces or fine-hairy beneath." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Flowers: Inflorescence a branched, nearly flat-topped, terminal cluster of numerous small flowers, the branches sometimes fine-hairy; corollas rosy-pink, the petals 5, narrowly egg-shaped, 1.5-2 mm long; calyces mostly smooth on the outside, 5-lobed, the lobes triangular, erect to spreading, about 1 mm long; ovaries superior; stamens numerous." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Fruits: Follicles, 4 or 5, beaked, 3-4 mm long, somewhat leathery, smooth except sometimes a few long hairs along the suture, shining; seeds several, spindle-shaped." [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]

Synonyms Spiraea splendens subsp. splendens Baumann & K. Koch [E-flora]

Other Use

Fiber-Blackfoot Brushes & Brooms Flowering stems used as paint- brushes, especially on the large spaces of tepees. (as S. densiflora 86:123)[NAEth Moerman]

Uses of Other Spiraea Sp.

Spiraea Sp; Meadowsweet is a reliable source of methyl salicylate, a compound similar to the primary active ingredient in aspirin. Unlike other salicylate-bearing plants, such as willow or poplar, meadowsweet's content of this analgesic compound remains consistent from plant to plant. Aside from the plant's value in relieving pain, inflammation, and fever. meadowsweet also has a reputation for relieving a variety of stomach disorders-an attribute not offered by aspirin. Blackfeet Indians used the tea as an enema, vaginal douche. and to treat various forms of venereal disease. [Tilford]

Spiraea were occasionally used for tea. For example, the Nlaka'pamux used the twigs and leaves of birch-leaved spiraea (S. betulifolia) and pyramid spiraea (S. pyramidata) (Turner et al., 1990), and the Abenaki used the leaves of meadow-sweet (S. albavar.latifolia) (Rousseau, 1947).[Turner&Kuhnlein]


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