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Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society

Focusing on native plants and conservation in North Idaho

Douglas Spirea

Common Name(s):  Douglas Spirea; Pink Spirea; Rose Spirea, Steeplebush, Hardhack (so-called by settlers because dense masses of the bush are hard to hack through.)

Scientific Name: Spiraea douglasii.  Spiraea comes from the Greek word, speira, which refers to wreaths, or garlands. It is for this reason that species of spirea are often referred to as bridal-wreath shrubs. Douglasii was named after the Scottish botanist David Douglas.

General Info:  A many-branched deciduous shrub with woolly young growth.  To 1.5 m tall.  Spreads into dense colonies in wetlands through rhizomes.

Native/ Non-native:  Native.  Alaska to California, E to Montana.

Ecology:  Riparian species: streambanks, swamps, fens, lake margins and damp meadows.  Scattered yet locally abundant in lower to mid elevation. 

Leaves:  Oblong to oval leaves 1 to 4 inches long, smooth edges near base and toothed above the middle; dark green upper side and light green underside (See photo at right)

Flowers:  Tiny (5 mm across), pink to deep rose numerous flowers in elongate clusters several times longer than broad.

Fruits:  Tiny seeds thought to be dispersed by wind and animals.

Light:  Generally shade intolerant in native environments.

Landscape Uses:   Makes an attractive, showy garden ornamental; easy to propagate from creeping offshoots.  May become invasive if not kept back.

Wildlife:   A dense habitat for small animal shelter and bird nesting.  Flowers attract butterflies and bees.  Food source for animals such as deer.

Uses: Wetland restoration.  Listed as a national wetland indicator species.

Notes:  Many species of spirea are used in flower arrangements.  Douglas' spirea may hybridize 
with white spiraea (S. betulifolia) to form pyramid spirea (S. x pyramidata Greene).

Plants of Southern Interior British Colombia and the Inland Northwest
(Parish, Coupe, Lloyd), 1996.

Plants of the Pacific NW Coast (Pojar, MacKinnon), 1994.

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Photo by Wendy Aeschliman