Spirea douglasii is a shrub with highly branched, erect stems standing up to 2m tall that will form thickets. Common names include Hardhack and Steeplebush. The leaves are deciduous, alternate and oblong in shape, measuring 4 to 10cm long. The leaf margin is toothed above the midline. The upper leaf surface is dark green while the lower surface is a paler shade of green and woolly. The flowers are light to dark pink in color and very small, measuring approximately 5mm across. The parts of the flower are five-merous as is characteristic of other members of the Rosaceae family. The inflorescence is a long terminal, conical, compact cluster of many flowers showing up in Juen and July; the entire structure is longer than it is wide. The fruit produced is a small pod-like follicle that remains on the shrub after the leaves have fallen.
The typical habitat of S. douglasii includes streambanks, swamps, fens, lake margins and damp meadows of low to mid elevations.
The geographic distribution has a northern boundary in southern Alaska and runs along the west coast to northern California and stretches east to southeast British Columbia and norht and central Idaho.
Historically natives have used S. douglasii to makre broom like tools for harvesting shells used widely for trade as a form of currency.
A synonym of S. douglasii is S. menziesii. Currently, the two species, S. douglasii and S. menziesii, are considered subspecies. S. douglasii var douglasii is widely distributed west of the Cascades and has leaves with a woolly lower surface. S. douglasii var menziesii has only a slighly hairy lower surface of leaves in comparison to var douglasii. A third subspecies, S. douglasii var roseata has been distinguished by the glabrous lower surface of the leaves and is found in central Idaho.
The above photos were taken along the Alsea River of western Oregon approximately 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean in July 2010.
Hitchcock, C.L. and A. Cronquist (1994) Flora of the Pacific Northwest, University of Washington Press, Seattle and London.
Kozloff, E.N. (1976) Plants and Animals of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle and London.
Pojar, J. and A. McKinnon (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, Washington, Canada.