Joe Pye Weed is an herbaceous, perennial native to much of the United States. It is a wildflower but also an herb that was used as a remedy to reduce fevers and other maladies. The plant goes by the common name Joe Pye Weed, in honor of a Native American herbalist.
This plant, a member of the Aster family, can attain a height of 5 – 7 feet and a diameter of 2 – 4 feet. In native settings it can become rather aggressive forcing out some other plants. The compound flowers are composed of 5 to 8 florets and bracts in dusty rose to mauve, giving the appearance of large clusters. The identifying characteristic for all of the Joe Pye Weeds is that the leaves are whorled, rather than found at opposite or alternate locations along the stem.
Habitat; This species grows well in full sun but prefers partial shade in order to do well. It prefers rich moist soil and can handle either acidic soil (pH = 5.5 to 6.5) neutral (pH = 7) or slightly alkaline soils (pH = 7.5 to 9). The various species of Joe Pye Weed live in Hardiness Zones 2 – 9 so it will do very well in the Chattanooga area. It usually blooms from July through September. This plant needs moist soils in order to flourish.
These species have no serious insect or disease problems; however, its leaves may scorch if soils are allowed to dry out. Powdery mildew and rust may also occur.
These species should be used in the garden where, first, there is abundant moisture in the soils, and second where the plants can easily spread out to provide a remarkable, visual impression.
The Joe Pye Weeds can be a dramatic accent in the back of a garden with their great height.
Since these species attract small birds and butterflies, they provide humans with visual stimulation. In addition, they are a source of nectar and therefore, provide honey bees with the raw material to produce honey.
In some plants, the leaves and flowers can give off a vanilla-like scent.
There are many species of the Joe Pye Weeds. The purple or reddish-purple flowered one has a species epithet of purpureus — obviously. The white one is referred to as “alba.” And so on.
The Joe Pye Weeds are best propagated by stem cuttings. They generally grow better in open woodland areas. The seeds from the drying flowerheads can be harvested and sown in the late autumn or early spring.
Many websites and books refer to Joe Pye as being a Native American medicine man from Salem, Massachusetts, who earned his fame from curing colonial settlers of typhus by using healing herb.
About the Author
Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.
Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!
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