Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Steeplebush - Spiraea tomentosa   L.
Members of Rosaceae:
Members of Spiraea with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Rosales » Family Rosaceae
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DistributionA somewhat bimodal state range. Generally throughout the Mountains and the northern 40% of the Coastal Plain, but widely scattered over the Piedmont and the southern Coastal Plain. Likely absent in some southeastern Coastal Plain counties, as well as some eastern and southern Piedmont counties.

This Northern species has an oddly “patchy” range, with many areas of apparent absence. It ranges from Canada south to northern SC and west to central AR; very scarce in northern VA and MD, and again scarce through much of OH, IN, and IL.
AbundanceFrequent to locally common in the Mountains and in the northern Coastal Plain. Rare to occasional elsewhere, except probably absent in the southeastern Coastal Plain. Very odd and patchy in abundance across the state. The NCNHP's State Rank of S3 is very conservative, and the website editors suggest S4S5.
HabitatIn the Mountains, it is found mainly in bogs and wet meadows; downstate, is it seen mostly in ditches, marshes, wet margins of forests, and perched on cypress knees and trunk bases.
See also Habitat Account for General Open, Wet Herblands
PhenologyBlooms from July to September, and fruits from September to October.
IdentificationThis is a strictly upright, small deciduous shrub growing to about 3-4 feet tall, with little or no branching. It nearly always grows in dense stands or colonies. This is our only native Spiraea with pink flowers; all others are white. The narrow “cone” shape of the inflorescence terminating the stem gives the species its most frequent common name of Steeplebush, making it easy to identify even when in fruit, and at a long distance as well. When not in bloom, it can be identified by its abundance of elliptical and serrated leaves that are ascending, and also that are densely whitish to rusty tomentose below.
Taxonomic CommentsSome references, including NatureServe, list varieties for the species – the nominate var. tomentosa and also var. rosea, but Weakley (2018) does not support that view.

Other Common Name(s)Hardhack is another frequently used name; Rosy Meadowsweet
State RankS3 [S4S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
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USACE-empFACW link
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