Land steward Jean Wiedenheft loves to take photos of “her” bees on our flowers around the grounds and the bees have been going crazy for the Joe Pye weed out back. It’s really not a weed at all and has a lovely vanilla-like scent, almost like a mild lilac. I did a little research and discovered the plant was named after a Native American herbalist, named Joe-Pye, who cured fevers using the Eupatorium plant. I’ll put several of her photos up on our Facebook photos page. In the meantime, here’s what Jean has to say.
Right now, the thing to do is stop and smell the Joe-pye weed (Eupatoreum maculatum). It is tall and lanky, like most of the late-summer bloomers, so it doesn’t always get the attention it warrants from urban dwellers. At six feet tall, it can be a bit much. But in a wide open setting, or as a backdrop to smaller flowers, it is perfect. Its pale lavender flowers harmonize beautifully with the deep purple of ironweed (Vernonia fasciculate), and the smell is intoxicating. Obviously the bees love it, and the butterflies do as well. The best spot to see it right now is right beside the barn, along the picket fence.
There is some ironweed there as well. About a quarter mile west of the barn along Otis Road there is an entire field of the ironweed blooming, clusters of purple mixed in with the yellow of cup plants. An easy way to tell the Joe-pye weed and the ironweed apart, if they aren’t quite in bloom or it is the seeds you’re stalking, is to check out the leaves.
The Joe-pye weed leaves are in a whorl around the stem, and the iron weed leaves are opposite.