Pye weeds create 'Yellowstone' type moments at the roadside as
passersby take photos of the blooms and butterflies.
as you drive from one scenic point to another you’ll notice cars
pulled to the side of the road. This is a clear signal that something
of extraordinary interest has been spotted. Bison, elk, moose, wolves
and of course bears are at the top of the list.
The past few
weeks, particularly in Georgia, we’ve been experiencing this type of
moment but with unbelievably picturesque Joe Pye Weeds. There is one
more caveat to this scenario however and that is the Joe Pye Weeds
appear to be the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport for butterflies.
You have to
admit it makes you feel good to know folks, and I am talking young
ones, are so interested as to get out of their cars, for an up close
and personal encounter with swallowtails, hairstreaks, and an
assortment of bees. I too found myself getting off the beaten path so
to speak to be a participant in this nature fest.
While Joe Pye
will forever be tagged with the indignation of having weed associated
with its name rest assured it is and forever will be a dazzling
perennial for the back of the garden border. This year I saw them for
sale at one of the national chains. Could ironweeds, goldenrods, and
bonesets be next?
This relative of
the chrysanthemum has been loved worldwide and made it into European
gardens while we weren’t even paying attention. Legend has it that
Joe Pye was a Native American Indian, Jopi who used the plant to cure
fever. While we won’t use it for its medicinal properties this
chrysanthemum relative can be a trusted perennial for the landscape
and is a must-have for backyard habitats and butterfly gardens.
The Joe Pye has
changed botanically from Eupatorium to Eutrochium. You’ll find them
native from the Gulf States to Canada. In my state of Georgia, we have
three species and another just across the river that all gather under
the Joe Pye name. We have Eutrochium fistulosum, or hollow stem Joe
Pye weed which is the one is often seen at the edge of woodland
roadsides producing rose-pink flowers on stalks that may reach 6 to 8
When I was at
the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens we grew ‘Little Red’, a
variety of the native Eutrochium purpureum. Little Red is a slightly
more compact selection at 4 to 6 feet with large rose-purple heads of
flowers. Then there is Eutrochium maculatum or spotted Joe Pye Weed
that is also touted as compact but still reaches 5 feet plus. ‘Gateway’
is a leading variety that you
Then oddly, just
across the river into South Carolina you will start finding the
Coastal Plain Joe Pye weed, Eutrochium dubium. Little Joe is a
selection of this species that has received rave reviews across the
country. It too is more compact reaching 3- to- 4 feet tall.
the one you choose, remember that the Joe Pye does best in fertile,
loamy soil. To look their best, you will most likely need to give them
supplemental water during droughty periods of the summer. Plant them
informally in cluster or drifts at least 3 feet apart. With their
rapid growth, you may find it to your liking to pinch in June to
Take a tip from
Mother Nature and grow them with plants like Ironweeds, Lynn Lowery
goldenrod, swamp hibiscus and anise hyssops or hummingbird mints. If
you do you may just have those ‘Yellowstone’ moments where people
are stopping by your home to participate in nature.