Queen of the Prairie is an erect perennial growing from 3 to 6 feet high on a grooved, sometimes branched stem which can be green to reddish.
Leaves are compound, having up to 7 lobed leaflet pairs arranged along a reddish leaf stem; each lateral leaflet has from 2 to 3 deeply cleft lobes. Terminal leaflets are larger, more round in outline, with 7 to 9 lobes. Leaf stalks have stipules with serrated edges and auricles at the base of the stalk. The auricles partially surround the stem. Flowering stems will have several widely spaced leaves, up to a foot in length. There are usually many non-flowering shoots which are just a basal leaf rising from the root and up to 2 feet long.
The inflorescence shape is one of the most characteristic features of the genus; it is like a tightly branched panicle on a long stalk and is technically called an anthela and represents a corymbiform panicle with the proximal branches nearly upright and long overriding the central axis of the inflorescence (A. A. Fedorov and Z. Artjuschenko 1979).
Flowers are 5-parted, with widely spreading pink petals that are rounded and then abruptly narrowed to a clawed base. There are 5 green short sepals which reflex when the flower opens. The exserted stamens are equal in length or slightly longer than the petals, have long pinkish filaments and pink anthers. These number about 10 to 20 and surround a cluster of 3 to 7 pinkish pistils. Each flower is on a short stalk. They are not fragrant, have no nectar, but provide pollen for pollinators.
Seed: Flowers mature to small achenes, red at maturity, 8 to 14 mm long, that are cylindrical, smooth and not twisted. Seeds require 90 days of cold stratification for germination. Once growing however, root divisions are easier as the plant has a strong root system - in some habitats - aggressive.
Habitat: The plants habitat is from wet to wet-mesic but in full sun. In partial sun the flower stems will tend to lean. In partial sun moisture conditions can be mesic. The root is strongly rhizomatous and will form irregular colonies under the correct moist conditions - i.e. it spreads. This species does not have root tubers.
Names: The Scientific name of Filipendula is from the Latin filum for "thread" and pendulus for "hanging," referring to how the small root tubers are strung together by fibrous roots in the species F. vulgaris, which is the type species for the genus and the only species which has the tubers. The species name rubra is Latin for" red". For a long time the plant was argued by some to in the Spiraea with the name Spiraea rubra but recent molecular research has shown it clearly belongs in the Rose family. (see Ref.#W7 for a complete discussion).
The author names for the plant classification are: First to classify was ‘Hill’ which refers to John Hill (c1716-1775), English botanist, author of 76 works including the 26 volume The Vegetable System. He originally published his description in 1768 as Ulmaria rubra; then Britton moved it to Spiraea and finally this work on this species was updated in 1906 by ‘B.L.Rob.’ - Benjamin Lincoln Robinson, (1864-1935) American Botanist, specialist in the Asteraceae.
Comparisons: A similar plant is the introduced Queen of the Meadow, F. ulmaria, which has white flowers, a leaf with less deeply lobed leaflets and a seed that is twisted.
Above: The tall inflorescence of Queen of the Prairie. Drawing from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
Below: A large basal leaf, 2 feet long, with 4 pair of separated lateral leaflets of 3 lobes each and the larger terminal leaflet of 7 lobes. Stem leaves are similar but usually shorter.
Below: 1st photo - The inflorescence is called an anthela - see details above. 2nd photo - Where the leaf joins the stem you will usually find these small leaf segments (stipules) on the petiole forming an auricle.
Below: 1st photo - The individual 5-parted flowers with their long stamens that have pink filaments and pink anthers. 2nd photo - The terminal leaflet of the compound leaf, showing the deeply cleft lobes.
Below: 1st photo - The root structure of Queen of the Prairie showing the rhizomatous roots. 2nd photo - For comparison is the leaf of a similar plant, Queen of the Meadow, Filipendula ulmaria, the leaflets are not deeply lobed like F. rubra.
Below: 1st photo - The small fruits of Queen of the Prairie shown here in the development stage, (red at maturity), are cylindrical, smooth and not twisted. Those of Queen of the Meadow, F. ulmaria, have a spiral twist.
Notes: While considered a native plant in a number of states, some, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, consider it to be an escapee from cultivation. Minnesota considers it to be non-native as only one population was ever found in Minnesota in the wild and that from near Duluth in 2009 where it probably escaped from a garden. It is a more recent addition to the Garden. It was not included on the 1951 or 1986 Garden census. It grows in the sunny part of the Woodland marsh area near the white flowered Queen of the Meadow.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Identification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"