Hey Joe (Pye Weed)

August brings not just the Susans, but also Joe – as in Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium). Note that Joe Pye Weeds used to be Eupatoriums, but now thanks to the ever-busy taxonomists they are Eutrochiums. This is arguably an improvement since Eutrochium is one syllable shorter. (I’ve written my Senator demanding passage of a bill barring taxonomists from introducing new genus names with more syllables than the old ones. I should hear back any day now, though I can’t imagine what’s taking so long.)

Of course, Eutrochium has that belligerent hard C, while Eupatorium has a gentler sound to it. So I don’t know.


Anyhow, in our garden we grow two kinds of Joe Pye Weed. First, there is the Spotted Joe Pye Weed cultivar ‘Gateway’ (E. maculatum). This Joe blooms in August with big mounded clusters of little rose-pink flowers.

DSC_0010Joe prefers moist soils, but I grow ‘Gateway’ in the raised Driveway Border, which has only average moisture. Joe seems perfectly fine here, growing to about 5 or 6 feet tall. It may be the one plant I’ve got that doesn’t grow significantly taller than it’s supposed to.

DSC_0200Joe Pye Weed flowers are rather odd when you look at them up close.

E. maculatum has fibrous roots that spread by rhizomes. The roots, once established, are very challenging to remove.

DSC_0009It’s generally thought that Joe Pye was an indigenous medicine man who used concoctions to cure typhoid fever. The current genus name comes from the Greek word for wheel-like, after the whorled leaves.

DSC_0013Joe Pye Weed is attractive to all kinds of bees. On the other hand, butterflies in our garden almost always snub Joe in favor of Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia).

DSC_0788We also grow Sweet Joe Pye Weed (E. purpureum), shown above with Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) in the Front Island Bed. Sweet Joe Pye Weed is allegedly fragrant (hence the common name), but I have never been able to detect any scent. The flowers of this species are duller than those of E. maculatum, but it is a much more shade tolerant plant.

DSC_0095Sweet Joe Pye Weed blooms mainly in July. In August the flowers turn a soft, fluffy brown when they go to seed. I find this appealing for some reason. I’ve occasionally seen Goldfinches feeding on the seeds.

That’s all for now.

48 Comments on “Hey Joe (Pye Weed)”

  1. I love my Joe Pye Weed!! It is in my front flower bed, full sun, this year a very moist spot because of all the rain we’ve had spring and summer. This year hungry gold finches and wrens are feasting in the flowers, along with butterflies and bees of all kinds. I love how welcoming it is!

  2. I hadn’t realised that the name had changed, how could they!
    Mine is some sort of cultivar, I don’t know which one, but it is in the driveway border, stands about 7ft tall and has huge flowers which are just opening now. The wildlife love it, preferring it to the buddleias either side of it, to see it covered in butterflies and bees makes my day!

  3. I have Joe Pye Weed, the straight species, around my back garden and it seems to be doing well in both mostly shade, part shade, and sun. This is my first year growing it, and it is around 5 ft tall! I’m pretty pleased. It always has bees and smaller bees and wasps on it. Mine has been blooming since about mid-July and is still going strong here in zone 5B.

  4. Such a great plant, and another butterfly magnet here in my region. You are right about the “challenging” root system! When I want to divide it I find myself wishing to rent a piece of heavy equipment. Dividing/moving it before it gets too big (guilty!) is the way to go

  5. Eupatorium is a really great plant and I think the long name trips of the tongue and I will never call it anything else. (Incidentally it never seems to be called Joe Pye over here in England)
    I would have thought reducing the number of syllables in a name is the kind of simplistic solution that your senator might find would appeal at the white house.

  6. The Joe Pye that’s thriving here (western Virginia) are the descendants of a ‘Gateway’ planted in the nineties. It’s a butterfly favorite, and is where the first monarchs of the season can usually be found (last week). Asters come on to feed the monarchs as the JP fades, which is happening now.

    Milkweed tussock caterpillars put a big dent in the milkweed, but a few plants are intact for monarch egg-laying, if there’s time…

  7. I didn’t know about the name change either. It gets very difficult trying to remember botanical names when they change (as well as the common names in British and American English and German too!). I don’t grow it, but the native and very common ‘E. cannabinum’, which is still known as Eupatorium in Wikipedia, grows up in the woods where we walk our dog and attracts loads of bees and butterflies, mostly Silver-washed Fritillaries. So I love it too!

  8. Let me know when you hear back from your Congressman:) Although, if state reps had anything to do with this, I’m sure they would be willing to consider it–they like to pass laws about anything other than important issues, like budgets. My Joe Pye must be the sweet one, because its blooms are duller than most I’ve seen; I’ve been wanting to plant more of the showier ones. I still remember seeing mass plantings of this at the Nicholas Conservatory in Rockford where the Joes were swarming with bees.

  9. I’ve decided to move all my Joe Pyes into a bed where I know they’ll get consistent water next year. It’s going to be interesting to see how they perform when I’m not ignoring their preference. I have a few patches that turn crispy every summer, but they still come back in the spring.

  10. At first I didn’t care for Joe Pye due to the odd flowers, but the longer I’ve had it, the more I like it, as it gets so nice and tall and really makes a statement in the garden. And the bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds enjoy mine. I was actually just reading a book written in the early 1900’s that researched wilderness life in the 1800’s, and it mentioned how Joe Pye was named after a Native American medicine man who used the plant for all sorts of ailments. I had never heard that before, so it is pretty neat that the name still survives.

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