Plant of the Month Sept 2018: Three-nerved (Coastal) Joe-pye-weed

Three-nerved (Coastal) Joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium dubium) is one of our many native plants that are unjustly considered weeds simply because of their common name. For gardeners, this is one of the more useful of several local species of Joe-pye-weed because it only grows to total height of about three or four feet.

   Coastal Joe-pye-weed is frequently found in damp soils of the coastal plain. Its ovate leaves develop in whorls of three or four on unbranched purple or purple-spotted stems. Pink to purple, dome-shaped, clustered blooms appear in late summer and last through early fall.

   It needs moisture and partial shade or sun to flourish, and can often be found in the wild alongside ditches, creeks or ponds. As long as there is ample moisture, it can grow in flower beds. It can be cut back to the ground after frost and will return in the spring, often accompanied by self-sown seedlings.

   Coastal Joe-pye-weed provides nectar for at least nine types of butterflies and is the host plant for at least forty varieties of moths. You might ask, “Who was Joe Pye”? That’s something of a mystery but he is believed to have been a Native American healer in colonial Massachusetts who used plant of this genus, perhaps for treating fevers and perhaps as a diaphoretic (sweat inducer).

   See Go Native—Grow Native for more information on choosing native plants appropriate for landscaping in Virginia’s coastal plain.

Submitted by Gary Chafin, Northern Neck Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society 

Photo: Coastal Joe-pye-weed in bloom by Betsy Washington.

Plant of the MonthGary Chafin