Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday: No Ordinary Joe

Fall is just around the corner, but you would never know it this week--it's been hot, hot, hot!  Temperatures have soared into the 90's with a heat index of 104 forecast for today.  I hope this is summer's last hurrah; cooler temps and some rain--please!--would be so welcome.

The garden, though, is beginning to shift into fall mode regardless of the heat.  Obedient Plant has burst into bloom in the butterfly garden just in time for Wildflower Wednesday.  I've cautioned every time I've shown a photo of Obedient Plant, Phystostegia virginiana, that it is an aggressive spreader and may not be suitable for everyone's garden.  This spring I was determined not to let it take over this area, so I ruthlessly pulled out seedling after seedling, leaving only a few.  Unfortunately, no pink bloomers returned, only white ones--darn, I wish they'd come with color tags!

It looks like I'm also going to have a bumper crop of goldenrod this fall.  No fancy-schmansy hybrids here, just the ordinary goldenrod that grows wild anywhere it can.  Many would call it a weed, but I like its bright appearance, and the bees and other critters like it even without a pedigree.  Besides, it makes a nice contrast to all the asters that will be blooming in this area soon.

But what I really wanted to feature for this month's WW post is a plant that everyone seems to have been bragging about this year--Joe Pye Weed, once in the Eupatorium genus, now Eutrochium purpureum. But let's just forget about those fancy Latin names that taxonomists seem to want to change every few years--I prefer to call him by his common name "Joe."

Photo (and previous one) taken at Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens in Rockford, Illinois.

Joe Pye Weed is a native to much of the Eastern and Northern US; growing to 5-7 feet tall, it's a perfect accent at the back of a border.  Its fluffy pinkish-purple blooms won't shade out shorter plants in front.  It blooms in mid-summer to early fall.

My Joes are planted in full sun, but they also do well in part shade.  One thing Joe likes, though, is moist soil, which is probably the reason mine is doing so much better this year than in the past.  I don't give the butterfly garden much additional water, so the plentiful rain--until this month!--has made him very happy.

Until this year I had only one Joe-Pye Weed, and I was always rather disappointed in its appearance.  The blooms were a lighter pink than others I saw, and the stems were green, not the purple I associated with most Joes.  However, I have since learned that there are several types of this plant, and mine might be a Hollow-stemmed Joe Pye.

This spring I added another Joe Pye, purchased from the annual sale of our local Prairie Plant Society, as well as a 'Little Joe,' purchased from a local gardener and fellow native enthusiast.  I was happy to see that these Joes have the purple stems and darker blooms I was hoping for.  The new Joe is much shorter than my original, and 'Little Joe's' blooms were rather small this year, but I'm sure they will both grow with time.

Joe attracts a multitude of bees and butterflies.  Alas, our shortage of butterflies this years means I have no photos to prove the latter, but I can certainly prove the bee attraction.  This stand at the Nicholas Conservatory in Rockford, which I recently visited, was just swarming with bumblebees.

The origin of this plant's name is rather a mystery.  According to some sources, it was named after an early doctor or herbalist, possibly a Native American, possibly a colonist, who cured fevers with a concoction made from this plant. Whether that is fact or fiction, one thing is true about Joe Pye Weed--it is certainly not a weed!

Wildflower Wednesday is hosted the fourth Wednesday of every month by native enthusiast and protector of the bees, Gail at Clay and Limestone.  Why not join us?  You're sure to learn something new!


  1. Your Joe Pye is gorgeous. I love the soft pink, and I'm glad it is doing so well for you this wet summer. I had a lovely large stand of white Obedient Plant for a couple years and this year it simply disappeared. No-show! It was a cultivar 'Miss Manners' which was supposed to keep from spreading, but it did that too well -- it didn't even grow this year. I liked it -- so I enjoy seeing yours here.

  2. Rose, I love goldenrod as well. It grows here near the fences, along the roads, everywhere. But I've not seen here Joe-Pye Weed and I think it's not a weed at all.

  3. It has indeed been a spectacular year for Joe! Love him in my garden. Goldenrod is just now coming into bloom down here. It's been such a wonderful summer but yes, rain would be nice!

  4. Forgot to say I planted Obedient plant on the farm. Everyone I spoke to kind of says it is controllable but normally I am shy about these aggressives. Will let you know how it goes. One other plant I was warned about-gooseneck loosestrife. You could never ever get me to try that after I spend one season pulling them out of a client's garden. I'm hoping obedient plant is not so bad. It seems you got rid of it where you did not want it.

  5. My Joe doesn't attract butterflies. I have been so disappointed in that. It does get it's fair share of bees and flies. I like the wild goldenrod. It pops up in my garden all the time. Happy WFW.

  6. He's a good Joe! I wish we could grow them here but our climate is not to their liking.

  7. Laurrie, I'm happiest about my new Joe-Pye. I always wondered why my original didn't have those lovely purple stems! I've heard of 'Miss Manners' and thought she was a great alternative to the native Obedient Plant; sorry yours didn't re-appear.

    Nadezda, Interesting that you also have goldenrod! I thought perhaps that it was native only to North America.

    Tina, my Obedient Plant has never escaped the boundaries of the butterfly garden, so that is good. It's also easily identifiable as a young seedling and easy to pull out in the spring. Probably if I bothered to deadhead it in the fall, it wouldn't spread so much either. With as much area as you have, I think it shouldn't be a problem for you.

    Lisa, I don't remember if Joe attracted butterflies in the past, but this year there are so few butterflies that only the echinacea seem to attract them.

  8. It is funny how Joe Pye seems to be the plant of the year! I don't have any or plan to plant it--but I am considering its close relative, Boneset, which seems to fit my garden color scheme a little better. How did you like the Nicholas Conservatory? I was thinking that would be a good place for us to meet sometime--maybe with some other WI/IL gardeners. I was recently at the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford--it's lovely, too!

  9. Hi Rose, I have found that the white obedient plant is not as aggressive as the purple. I wouldn't be surprised if you had more of the purple ones come up next year.

    Yes, the Joe pyes are doing well this year. I didn't know the botanical name got changed.

  10. That is warm. We're only up to about 85 - and we're complaining - I'll stop right now. Adore the J.P. for butterflies - lots of little ones, no monarchs. For me, though beautiful, it does have a real weed like quality and have to be ruthless every spring otherwise it would completely take over - sort of like your pink obedience plants. And in my garden the obedience plants rarely last longer than a year - I guess it's that old right plant, right spot saying.

  11. Every year I make the resolution to add Joe Pye weed to my garden and every year for some reason I fail to do it. But this is it! For sure next spring I'm adding it. Love that plant and it is so useful for butterflies and other pollinators.

  12. Great pictures! This is a favorite plant for me. I have the variety 'Gateway' and the species Sweet Joe Pye Weed. 'Gateway' is great for color and length of bloom, an all around fantastic plant. Sweet Joe is taller, blooms earlier, and is more of a dusty pink to 'Gateway's' richer pink/purple. Love them both!

  13. I have big Joe and little Joe and have to say I prefer little Joe. I like the dark purple stems too and the plant seems more upright than its big cousin. I also have white Joe Pye weed(new to the garden last summer) which is only just now coming into flower. I am a fan of goldenrod. Last year I also purchased a perennial form of goldenrod (sorry I forgot the latin name off the top of my head). It is also starting to flower and looks very promising. Have a great long weekend Rose!

  14. So sorry you pulled all the pink False Dragonhead plants. I love them best and decided to let them go crazy this year~Which they have with all the rain we had earlier. Your Joes look wonderful. It's sad there are so few butterfly to take advantage of them. Maybe next year! Happy WW! gail

  15. Cindy, So sorry Joe won't grow for you, although this week with the temps and high humidity, it sure feels like Houston!

    Beth, The Conservatory was closed when we got there, but we were able to tour the grounds, which is probably my favorite part anyway--lovely! And yes, we did see the Anderson Japanese Garden--the reason I went to Rockford in the first place. Absolutely delightful! I was thinking, too, that Rockford would be a great place for a get-together.

    Sue, I seem to remember not having as many pink/purple Obedient plant last year either--I wish there was a way to tell when I'm pulling them out, because I prefer the pink. I can't keep up with these name changes!

    Barbarapc, I think temperatures are relative, depending on what you're used to. I wish Joe Pye would multiply in my garden!

    Dorothy, I say the same thing about a lot of plants myself. Sometimes it's a matter of finding the right place for one, and Joe does require some room.

    Jason, Thanks for the info--I do think now that my original plant was a species Joe, maybe the Sweet Joe you mentioned.

  16. Jennifer, Until recently I didn't even know there were so many Joes! I just noticed this week that my 'Little Joe' is looking a little poorly. I hope the dry weather we've had hasn't affected him too much.

    Gail, I wish I could have known which seedlings were pink and which were white--I prefer the pink ones, too!

  17. Whether *Joe* is a weed or not........ it is very pretty. I class anything that grows where it shouldn't grow as a weed!
    I guess we will have to settle for Autumn/Fall sooner or later but we've had a lovely Summer, so we can't grumble.(After a nasty Spring)
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  18. If the butterflies love it, I would too, as I've just started a butterfly garden.

  19. Hi Rose, your pale pink Joe with green stems DOES look a lot like the one growing here. I spent so much time researching, trying to figure out what kind of eupatorium/eutrochium it was. Then I decided it didn't mater anymore. I like it, but I'm with you - I do like the purple stems and brighter blooms of purpureum. They sure are wonderful plants.


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