Dropwort is a lover of basic soils, and can be found blooming on the serpentine of the Lizard Peninsula from May to August.
Photo: Amanda Scott

Scientific name: Filipendula vulgaris

Other names: Fern-leaf Dropwort

Dropwort is a perennial belonging to the Rose family (Rosaceae), and is closely related to Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria): Dropwort can however be distinguished by its generally smaller height, the more open shape to its flowerheads and larger flowers, and, in particular, by its strongly pinnated leaves with toothed lobes. Its creamy-white flowers have a reddish tinge on the outside, and the stems can turn to a red colour.

Its range covers much of Europe, but it is locally common rather than ubiquitous given its preference for calciferous (basic) soils: it is a plant mainly of calcareous grasslands, limestone, chalk downs and serpentine, the latter explaining its presence on The Lizard. Dropwort is not particularly tolerant of shade, but is tolerant of dry conditions. It has drop-shaped root tubers, hence its common name.

Did you know…?

…Dropwort has been used traditionally to treat kidney and bladder stones and intestinal worms (plant names with ‘-wort’ often indicate a traditional medicinal use)

…A crushed leaf smells of wintergreen oil (methyl salicylate): this attracts bees for pollination, but, being toxic, is also a deterrent to the plant being eaten.

More information and references:

Bates, R. and Scolding, B., 2002. Wild Flowers of The Lizard. Cornwall County Council, Cornwall.

Rose, F. and O’Reilly, C., 2006. The Wild Flower Key, 2nd edition. Frederick Warne, London.

Stace, C., 2010. New Flora of the British Isles, 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


Published: July 2013
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Amanda Scott