Filipendula rubra (queen of the prairie)
Filipendula rubra (Photo licensed under CC BY 2.0)
Filipendula rubra (Hill) B.L.Rob.
queen of the prairie
Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria, but threatened in parts of its range.
Wet meadows and boggy areas; usually on calcium-rich soils.
About this species
A herbaceous perennial native to the United States, queen of the prairie is an attractive addition to bog gardens and streamside plantings. It has elegant, deeply cut foliage and dense clusters of small pink flowers held above, and has been given the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). The generic name Filipendula comes from the Latin for thread (filum) and drooping (pendulus) in reference to the root tubers of some species which hang together joined by fine fibres.
Spiraea rubra, Ulmaria rubra
Geography and distribution
Queen of the prairie is native from the Eastern to Central United States (from Pennsylvania to Georgia and west to Iowa and Missouri).
An upright, clump-forming perennial growing up to 2.5 m tall and bearing kidney-shaped stipules. The leaves are bright green, fragrant and hairless, except on the undersides of the veins. The large terminal, three-lobed leaflet is up to 20 cm in diameter. The lower leaflets are three to five-lobed. The tiny, fragrant, deep to pale pink flowers are borne on branched, terminal flat-topped panicles (corymbs) in early to mid summer.
The cultivar Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ grows up to 2 m tall and has deep rose-coloured flowers.
Threats and conservation
Filipendula rubra is considered endangered in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and North Carolina, and considered threatened in Iowa and Michigan.
Native Americans used the root in traditional medicine for treating various heart problems and as a herbal aphrodisiac. The root has a high tannin content and was valued as an astringent and for treating skin rashes.
Queen of the prairie is grown as an attractive, spreading ornamental in bog garden and waterside settings.
Filipendula rubra should be grown in moist, fertile, humus-rich soils that do not dry out in the summer. It thrives in boggy soils and is hardy to -15˚C. It can be propagated by division of clumps in autumn or winter, or by seed in autumn or spring (it also self-seeds freely).
This species at Kew
Filipendula rubra can be seen growing in the Bog Garden and alongside a stream to the west of the Japanese Garden at Wakehurst.
Pressed and dried specimens of queen of the prairie are held in Kew’s Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment.
Kew at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011
In 2011, Kew partnered with The Times to produce a show garden to showcase the significance of plants to science and society.
The garden, designed by Chelsea gold medallist Marcus Barnett, featured species chosen to demonstrate both beauty and utility, including medicinal, commercial, and industrial uses to underline the fact that plants are invaluable to our everyday lives – without them, none of us could live on this planet; they produce our food, clothing and the air that we breathe.
Fillipendula rubra was one of the species that featured in the garden, which was awarded a Silver Medal.
Chadde, S.W. (1998). A Great Lakes Wetland Flora. Pocketflora Press, Michigan.
Foster, S. & Duke, J.A. (2000). A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants of Eastern and Central North America, 2nd Edition. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Massachussetts. 162-163.
Huxley, A. (ed.) (1997). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening 2 (D-K). Macmillan, London.
Missouri Botanical Garden (2011). Filipendula rubra. Available online (accessed 25 January 2011).
The Plant List, Version 1 (2010). Filipendula rubra. Available online (accessed 25 January 2011).
United States Department of Agriculture (2011). Filipendula rubra. Available online (accessed 25 January 2011).
Kew Science Editor: Shahina Ghazanfar
Kew contributors: Steve Davis (Sustainable Uses Group)
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell
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