Douglas spirea (Spiraea douglasii), a shrub belonging to the Rose Family, is native to Western North America. Naturally growing along streambanks and lake margins and in wet meadows from low to middle elevations, Douglas spirea is a favorite of gardeners and as a result has naturalized in several Central States. Able to hybridize with several other Spiraea species, Douglas spirea is a highly variable plant. It prefers a sunny, wet location yet once established can withstand dry conditions and drought.
Douglas spirea is an erect, leggy, branched plant that grows up to two meters in height and tends to form thickets. The dense spirea thickets provide habitat for birds, amphibians and small mammals. Bees, butterflies and other insects are attracted to Douglas spirea flowers.
The alternate, deciduous Douglas spirea leaves are oblong and toothed above the middle of the leaf. The upper side of the leaf is dark green while the underside is pale and sometimes is a woolly grey. The pink to rose flowers have five petals and are tightly clustered into a terminal inflorescence that is longer than it is wide. The stigmas protrude above the petals and give the flower cluster a “fuzzy” appearance. The fruits (small, pod-like follicles) remain on the shrub long after the leaves have fallen.
Steeplebrush, Western spirea and hardtack are other common names for Douglas spirea. Formerly this shrub was classified as Spiraea menziesii.
These specimens were growing above the falls along Burney Creek in Burney Falls State Park (CA).
Matt: Here is another “Douglas” for you. Over 80 plants and animals are named after David Douglas (1799-1834). Douglas was a Scottish botanist who made three separate North American expeditions to catalog the fauna and flora. Many of his discoveries bear his name.