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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ironweed and Joe Pye-Weed, Late Summer Native Beauties

Bees on Joe Pye-Weed

Turns out I'm not the only one who had some confusion in the difference between the majestic New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) and Joe Pye-Weed (Eutrochium purpurem). There are numerous perks for including these plants in our landscaping. The fact that they both are natives to North America means that they are low maintenance plants and have long adapted to weather and water conditions to be hardy perennial plants. You'll be pleased to discover that they'll propagate with little help from you, without being invasive. If they seem to be crowding out other plants, it is easy to just thin them out.

Joe Pye-Weed is a wetland plant with several other  names. It can be called by it's genus name which is Eupatorium, or common names Gravel root, Trumpet weed and Queen of the Meadow. There are two stories of how this plant got its name. Some say that an 18th century Native American medicine man named Joe Pye, traveled around New England treating typhoid fever with an infusion made from the plant's leaves. The other version is that the name is a form of the Native American word for typhoid, which is jopi.

Ironweed often can be found growing in the same vicinity as Joe Pye-Weed. There are over 30 species of this beautiful plant. The origins of this name may be because after blooming, the seed heads turn a rusty brown, similar to the color of iron. Other people suggest that the plant gets its name from its tough stems and long taproot, touch as iron.

Planted to the rear of a garden or as a background accent plant, these plants look beautiful with other natives which are blooming at the same time, July and August. The yellows of Helianthus (wild sunflowers), Goldenrod and Black-Eyed Susan look stunning with the mauves and purples of Joe Pye-weed and Ironweed.

The similarities in these two plants are that they both grow in damp, sunny areas. They can be seen in wetlands but also along roadways, utilizing the water that collects in the roadside ditches. Both bloom in July and August and both grow taller than most plants around them.

The differences include Ironweed usually grows to a taller height of up to 8 feet, has slightly darker leaves, and the flowers aren't as spread out or plumy. Ironweed has purple blooms, whereas Joe Pye-Weed has pinkish, mauve flower heads. Once these facts are pointed out, telling these plants apart becomes easy.

 If you want to encourage butterflies, bees and other pollinators, these are ideal choices. By late summer you'll be fascinated by the amount of insect activity taking advantage of these wonderful sources of pollen.

For those of you who try to choose landscaping plants based on which are deer resistant, you'll be pleased to know that deer generally leave these bitter tasting plants alone.

Grab your camera and enjoy the beautiful shots of color you'll be able to get!

Easter Tiger Swallowtail on Ironweed