Habit: an herbaceous perennial with thick rhizomes, tall flowering stalks and distinct brown, hairy stems. Meadow alum-root has heart-shaped leaves, with 7-9 deeply rounded lobes and serrated margins. All leaves are basal and long-stalked; the venation patterns and dense fine hairs on the underside of the blades help to distinguish this species from other alum-roots. The inflorescence stalk grows to 40 inches in height and bears a long, narrow panicle. Flowers have small, inconspicuous white petals and bright green, glandular calyxes.
Ecology: this species inhabits moist, grassy bluffs, rocky slopes and forest edges, from low to mid elevations. It is found from British Columbia, and south through western Washington and Oregon, to just over the border of northwestern California. A few isolated communities occur in eastern Oregon and Idaho.
Growing conditions: it enjoys part shade or dappled light, and rocky, well-drained, moist to dry soils. This is an attractive plant for a rock garden, stony slope or gravelly spot along a pathway. It looks great in companion of douglas iris, snow berries, gooseberries and ferns.
Alum-roots were important medicinal plants for the indigenous people of North America and for herbalists as well. An intense astringent extracted from the roots was reportedly used in the treatment of cancer in the 18th century. Native Americans of the interior used the roots to treat wounds, sores and liver disorders and the Secwepemc made a solution of the leaves to treat diarrhea. Plants of this genus are also used by craftsman as a mordant to fix dyes.