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What is a Queen of the Prairie?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Queen of the prairie, scientific name Filipendula rubra, is a large perennial wildflower with sizable attractive clusters of tiny pink flowers. It is native to the eastern U.S. in moist habitats with a temperate climate and has a few reputed medicinal uses. Queen of the prairie is a low maintenance plant that can be used in gardens in a variety of ways and will spread rapidly under the right conditions.

As a rather tall plant, Queen of the prairie often grows to a height of 3 to 6 feet (0.9 to 1.8 m) and spreads to about 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) wide. The stems are often reddish with complex yellowish green leaves that are larger near the base of the plant and become smaller higher on the stems. The leaves have several pointed lobes with prominent veins and saw tooth edges.

The flowers of the Queen of the prairie plant bloom on tall leafless stems during the summer, between June and August. They are very large showy clusters of flowers that are often visible above the tops of surrounding plants. The flower cluster is made up of numerous tiny pale pink blossoms. Each blossom has five rounded petals and numerous long stamens. The stamens give the clusters a soft fuzzy look that has been compared to cotton candy.

Queen of the prairie is native to the eastern U.S. with a range that spreads from Pennsylvania, south to Georgia, and west to Missouri and Iowa. It grows in temperate climates with moderate temperatures, but it has difficulty in extreme heat or cold. Primary habitats include swampy meadows, moist prairies, and wet boggy areas near streams, springs, and rivers.

There are a few purported medicinal uses for the Queen of the prairie. The Native Americans used it to treat fevers, skin conditions, and arthritis. The plant is supposed to be an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory, and has been used to treat ailments such as diarrhea and heart complaints. It is thought to contain salicylic acid which has similarities to aspirin.

In the backyard, Queen of the prairie is used in wildflower gardens and natural looking areas, flower beds, and borders. Due to its size, it is best suited for large gardens. An ideal location will have partial shade or full sun with plenty of water. Rich soil that holds moisture is best, and the plant should be watered often enough to maintain moisture. Under the right conditions, it will self seed easily and can spread over a large area.

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