Joe Pye Weed - Queen Of The Meadow
Late summer is the time of year when nature has reached maturity. The efforts of springtime planting have paid off. We are gathering our vegetables and we are witness to the full beauty of our flower gardens. Not to be ignored are the wild renderings of the land flora, some debuting while others ebb. We watch (some, with dismay) the lilies fade and the rose gardens begin to crumble. Still there are glorious awakenings in the process. One of these gifts is the Joe Pye Weed.
Don't let the name fool you. Joe Pye weed is a member of the chrysanthemum family and is incorporated into flower gardens around the world. Though nicknamed "queen of the meadow", it grows here in the mountains as well. I have often enjoyed its majestic presence along the Blue Ridge Parkway on my way to work. Joe Pye weed can grow up to eight feet tall so it cannot be missed. It consists of a long stem topped with small purple to purple-white flower clusters that form a calyx. The botanical name for Joe Pye Weed is eupatorium purpureum and like all members of the eupatorium family it is herbaceous.
Joe Pye was a Native American from New England who discovered the medicinal uses for the plant and used it to cure fevers. Most of the plant is poisonous but the roots have been used for relief of symptoms associated with flu and upper respiratory congestion. It was used as a diuretic and for the relief of aches and pains. Joe Pye weed, like many herbs, can be toxic and should not be used casually without supervision.
Most fun is the lore assocated with Joe Pye weed. It was used to cast spells of love and respect. It was consdered a love medicine in many Native American tribes. To be successful in attracting someone of the opposite sex, put a leaf of Joe Pye in your mouth. Gamblers were known to carry a few leaves in their pockets as good luck charms. If you want to gain the respect of others, Joe Pye weed can get the job done.
Any butterfly garden will benefit from the addition of Joe Pye weed. Swallowtail butterflies and bees are as attracted to it as much as passers-by. It can be placed along the back of a perennial garden for fall color and added depth. Or it can be given a section of the yard of its own for a dramatic eyecatcher. Joe Pye prefers moist soil and locations but can adapt to dryer climates by adding organic matter to the soil and keeping it well-watered. Joe Pie weed can be grown from seed and though slow to start will grow rapidly. A dwarf version of the plant has been developed. It is called "Little Joe" and is ideal for more compact areas.
Joe Pye weed demands attention. It is a worthy and showy perennial for your native garden. When your summer garden is past its peak and showing signs of fading, Joe Pye can bring back the beauty and remind us all that every season has its gifts