Joe-Pye Weed

2017 April 1

These plants are common in swampy areas around here, they stand about 3 to 4 feet tall and bloom through most of August. I photographed them on August 1, 2016.


The flowers grow in a loose cluster at the top of the stem, and consist of little purple cylinders with threadlike petals.



The leaves are large and elongated, and sprout from the stem in whorls of five. I estimate the mature leaves as being about 6 to 10 inches long.



There is obviously some insect that eats the leaves, since there are bite marks taken out of them, but I didn’t see any of whatever was doing it.

These are pretty clearly some species of Joe-Pye Weed, in the genus Eutrochium. Based on the size and shape of the leaves, and the dark purple stems, I think they are either Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum) or Sweet Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum). Or possibly hybrids of the two species, they apparently hybridize easily with each other, and we are in the part of North America where their ranges overlap.

The bees love Joe-Pye Weed, probably because they are very reliable nectar producers in the late summer. Some plants skimp on the nectar production in August when the weather is dry, because nectar is mostly water and they are trying to conserve moisture. But, since the Joe-Pye Weeds live in swampy areas, they always have a good supply of moisture for nectar.

And, of course, the big question is, “Who is Joe Pye?”. It turns out that this is not exactly known for sure, his name got attached to the plant before anyone thought to record who he was. It looks like he was most likely a Sachem of one of the native tribes around Stockbridge, Massachusetts, who changed his name to “Joseph Pye” when he converted to Christianity (although some of the legends claim he was a native named “Jopi”, living around Salem). At any rate, the reason his name got associated with this plant is that he used it to make a tea for reducing fevers, and used it fairly liberally to treat typhus outbreaks.

One Response
  1. Carole permalink
    April 1, 2017

    Grew this from seed for the first time last year.

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