When I don’t have time to write meaningful content, I post pretty pictures. Here are a few of a spicebush swallowtail on Eutrochium fistulosum (joy-pye weed, Asteraceae) in my garden. The plant also attracts monarchs, eastern tiger swallowtails, and lots of skippers and bees.
I hope to get back to writing some time next week. Apologies for the lapses.
I’m not sure what compelled me to look closely at this particular cluster of tiny white fuzzy flowers. They’re all over the place at this time of year, in the form of late-flowering thoroughwort and white snakeroot. But for some reason I pulled the kayak up close to this one islet near Fletcher’s Cove, and there it was.
This was a big deal because I’ve never actually seen this plant, despite it being fairly common. What sets it apart from the other Eupatoriums is the paired, clasping, opposite leaves that make it look like the stem is piercing a single leaf.
There’s nothing about the flowers to distinguish them from other bonesets or thoroughworts.
Boneset likes sun or a bit of shade and wet soils and is tolerant of flooding, so the rock outcrops near the banks of the Potomac are perfect habitat for it. The native range is from Texas north into Manitoba and all the way east to the Atlantic.
The genus Eupatorium once contained hundreds or species, including (in this area) the various bonesets/thoroughworts, mistflowers, snakeroots, and joe-pye weeds. Those last three have been moved to other genera, but that is a subject for another day.
…hey, what about the other white flowers in that picture? Stay tuned!
An hour or less after shooting the skipper and swallowtail (see previous post), I saw a third species of butterfly on another joe-pye weed.
This one is spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus). Note the eastern tiger swallowtail in the background.
And now, a confession: I was so focused on shooting the butterflies, I forget to take a close look at the plants. The plants shown here and in the previous post are likely sweet joe-pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum (Asteraceae), but I don’t have a single picture showing the critical details for a definitive ID.
I think I just gave myself an assignment for later this week.
Vernonia noveboracensis; Asteraceae (aster family)
This coarse-textured plant is a joy to find in the wild. Growing up to six feet, it likes full sun and wet soils, so you’ll find it not far from the river banks, facing the water from the treeline.
It’s one of 30 species of Vernonia native to the US, though only two others are found in this area. Occurring primarily on the East Coast, it’s listed as a plant of special concern in Kentucky, and is presumed extirpated in Ohio.
New York ironweed is also an important source of pollen. The Xerces Society considers it of “special value to native bees”. It would make a great companion to joe-pye weed in the back of a perennial border, especially in a yard with drainage issues.
Remember hairy hawkweed from a few days ago? That composite flower has only rays. This one has only disc flowers. In the below left picture you can see the five petals of the corolla, with the reproductive parts rising out of them.
lI love the intensity of color.
Eutrochium pupureum; Asteraceae (aster family)
Those wacky taxonomists are always re-naming things. The genus formerly known as Eupatorium contained a large number of species, a few of which I’ll be featuring over the next several days. Colloquially they’re known as joe-pye weeds, thoroughworts, bonesets, and snakeroots. Apparently the joe-pye weeds are now in the genus Eutrochium (for a while they were in the genus Eupatoriadelphus).
There’s a lot of folklore around the medicinal uses of this plant, named for a Native American who used it for a variety of ailments. It’s a plant with a lot of presence, growing to seven feet tall in rich, constantly moist soils all over the eastern half of North America.
Has a slightly sweet scent, too. If you have a swale at the back of your yard where nothing wants to grow, plant some joe-pye weed in it as the backdrop for a perennial border.