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Types Of Eupatorium: Tips For Distinguishing Eupatorium Plants

Types Of Eupatorium: Tips For Distinguishing Eupatorium Plants


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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Eupatorium is a family of herbaceous, blooming perennials belonging to the Aster family.

Distinguishing Eupatorium plants can be confusing, as many plants formerly included in the genus have been moved to other genera. For instance, Ageratina (snakeroot), a genus that now contains more than 300 species, was formerly classified as Eupatorium. Joe Pye weeds, previously known as types of Eupatorium, are now classified as Eutrochium, a related genus containing about 42 species.

Today, most plants classified as types of Eupatorium are commonly known as bonesets or thoroughworts – although you may still find some labeled as Joe Pye weed. Read on to learn more about distinguishing Eupatorium plants.

Differences Between Eupatorium Plants

Common boneset and thoroughwort (Eupatorium spp.) are wetland plants native to the Eastern half of Canada and the United States, growing as far west as Manitoba and Texas. Most species of bonesets and thoroughworts tolerate cold as far north as USDA plant hardiness zone 3.

The primary distinguishing characteristic for boneset and thoroughwort is the way the fuzzy, erect, cane-like stems seem to perforate, or clasp, the large leaves which may be 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm.) long. This unusual leaf attachment makes it easy to tell the difference between Eupatorium and other types of flowering plants. The leaves are lance shaped with finely toothed edges and prominent veins.

Boneset and thoroughwort plants bloom from midsummer through fall producing dense, flat-topped or dome-shaped clusters of 7 to 11 florets. The tiny, star shaped florets may be dull white, lavender, or pale purple. Depending on the species, bonesets and thoroughworts can reach heights of 2 to 5 feet (around 1 m.).

All species of Eupatorium provide important food for native bees and certain types of butterflies. They are often grown as ornamental plants. Although Eupatorium has been used medicinally, it should be used with great care, as the plant is poisonous to humans, horses, and other livestock that graze the plants.

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How to Grow and Care for Joe Pye Weed

Despite the fact that it has the word “weed” in its name, Joe Pye weed is a great native flower to add to your garden. It’s not the best for small spaces, since it normally grows 5-8 feet tall, but it will add beauty and fragrance along with its impressive height.

Joe Pye weed was also once favored by Native Americans and American herbalists to treat fevers and for use as a diuretic. Most gardeners now grow it as an ornamental plant, but you can look into its medicinal properties if you’re interested.

Here’s more about why you would want to grow Joe Pye weed, plus how to plant and care for this native wildflower.


Joe-Pye weed is one Houston gardeners will want to cultivate

Joe Pye Weed is a towering native topped with smokey-pinkish-purple domed clusters in summer and fall. The narrow, lance-shaped leaves whirl along straight, tall stems. In moist soils, the 6-foot species may grow taller. If this is too much for your garden, look for 4-foot cultivars. Plant them in sun or part sun.

A Swallowtail butterfly rests on a Joe-Pye Weed.

STEVEN WAYNE ROTSCH, MBR / AP Show More Show Less

Joe Pye Weed is a towering native topped with smokey-pinkish-purple domed clusters in summer and fall. The narrow, lance-shaped leaves whirl along straight, tall stems. In moist soils, the 6-foot species may grow taller. If this is too much for your garden, look for 4-foot cultivars. Plant them in sun or part sun.

In Yellowstone, as you drive from one scenic point to another, you’ll notice cars pulled to the side of the road. This is a clear signal that something of interest has been spotted. Bison, elk, moose, wolves and, of course, bears are at the top of the list.

The past few weeks we’ve been experiencing this type of moment — but with the unbelievably picturesque Joe Pye Weeds. The plants appear to be IAH for butterflies.

You have to admit it makes you feel good to know folks are so interested as to get out of their cars, for an up close and personal encounter with swallowtails, hairstreaks and an assortment of bees. I too found myself getting off the beaten path so to speak to be a participant in this nature fest.

Joe Pye Weed is a towering native topped with smokey-pinkish-purple domed clusters in summer and fall. The narrow, lance-shaped leaves whirl along straight, tall stems. In moist soils, the 6-foot species may grow taller.

While Joe Pye will forever be tagged with the indignation of having weed associated with its name rest assured it is and forever will be a dazzling perennial for the back of the garden border. This year I saw them for sale at one of the national chains. Could ironweeds, goldenrods and bonesets be next?

This relative of the chrysanthemum has been loved worldwide and made it into European gardens while we weren’t even paying attention. Legend has it that Joe Pye was a Native American Indian, Jopi who used the plant to cure fever. While we won’t use it for its medicinal properties this chrysanthemum relative can be a trusted perennial for the landscape and is a must-have for backyard habitats and butterfly gardens.

The Joe Pye has changed botanically from Eupatorium to Eutrochium. You’ll find them native from the Gulf States to Canada. Eutrochium fistulosum, or hollow stem Joe Pye Weed, is the one is often seen at the edge of Texas woodland roadsides producing rose-pink flowers.

Joe Pye does best in fertile, loamy soil. To look their best, you will most likely need to give them supplemental water during droughty periods of the summer. Plant them informally in cluster or drifts at least 3 feet apart. If 6-feet-tall is too much for your garden, look for 4-foot cultivars. Plant them in sun or part sun.

Take a tip from Mother Nature and grow them with plants like Ironweeds, Lynn Lowery goldenrod, swamp hibiscus and anise hyssops or hummingbird mints. If you do, you may just have those “Yellowstone” moments where people are stopping by your home to participate in nature.

Norman Winter is a horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South.”


Watch the video: Minnesota Native Plant - Sweet Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium Purpureum


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