Meadow Sweet is possibly the whitest flower you will find. There are lots of white flowers but many of them have a hint of cream or green or of pink, they are the paint worlds Farrow and Ball …. ‘Wimborne White’, ‘Elephants Breath’, ‘Ammonite’ and ‘Dimity’ are just a few of the various ‘white’ paints that they produce. Anyway Meadow Sweet is none of those, it is pure brilliant white.
Many descriptions of this plant refer to the creamy white flowers, however, as you can see in the photo the petals are white. Perhaps the creamy description arises because the flower stems are yellow and so to are the stamens, so combine that with the white flowers especially when the flowers are going over and loosing their petals and you could possibly arrive at cream, but to me the flowers are white….very white. It is quite amazing that some web sites show a photo in which the flowers are obviously pure white and then they add a description which invariably says creamy white. Here is an link to one such example. Wildflower finder
Also most descriptions say that the plant lives in ditches, damp meadows and riverbanks and do not mention woodland…Well I recall it growing in some profusion in damp regions of Honeypot wood, Norfolk. This is an ancient coppice with standard woodland and it really came to the fore in the years immediately following coppicing, but still it was growing in the partial shade, created by the standard trees. Also I often see it in hedge banks where again there will be some shade.
Superficially it looks like an umbellifer but it is in the rose family. It grows quite tall, usually about 150cm but it can get up to 200 cm.
Meadow sweet has a wide range of uses, both medicinal, and as plant which when dried imparts a nice smell and for its use in brewing, especially mead. There is a web site called Indigo Herbs which will tell you lots about its uses, however one thing they miss is that it was supposed to be Queen Elizabeth 1st’s favourite herb for spreading on the floor to rid the air of unpleasant smells.
The seeds are quite interesting and attractive, they are green and have a pattern of little ridges on them. I have seen it described as like a tiny clenched fist, which is not a bad way of describing it.