Named for Jopi, a Native healer who used this beautiful plant, Eutrochium purpureum, to heal early colonists with fevers and other health problems; this gorgeous perennial wildflower is found throughout Eastern North America.
Jopi Weed, or Joe Pye Weed, reminds us of the rich botanical legacy Native Americans generously shared with early European settlers in America. Native Americans continue to use Eutrochium for urinary tract infections, fevers, and other health conditions.
But I purchased this plant from Knott’s Creek Nursery in May not for its medicinal uses, but for its beauty.
I was looking for Asclepias tuberosa, or native Milkweed, at the time. I wanted to purchase a native perennial which would attract more butterflies to the garden, and would serve as a host for butterfly larvae.
Since Knott’s Creek was out of Asclepias that day, I purchased the Eutrochium instead, knowing it is also a butterfly magnet.
Jopi Weed, like so many native plants we purchase for the garden, is easy to grow.
It prefers moist soil and full to partial sun. This one is planted in compost, mulched with bark, and gets regular water from both rain and irrigation.
It hasn’t grown much taller in the few months we’ve had it, but it has begun to form a clump.
Planted in the right spot, with abundant moisture, these plants can grow to 6′ or more tall and form a clump several feet wide.
Deciduous, it should be cut to the ground sometime between a killing frost and early spring.
Clumps can be divided as they grow.
Although we haven’t found butterflies on the flower head yet, it is alive with clouds of bees, flies, and wasps visiting this nectar rich part of the garden.
We recently heard Dr. Doug Tallamy of The University of Delaware speak on “Bringing Nature Home,” also the title of his 2009 book.
Dr. Tallamy made the point that although berries and seeds are desirable; birds need a steady supply of insects in their diet more than they need the plant foods we offer.
And further, the more insects we can attract to our gardens,the more birds we can attract and sustain.
Now, that sounds counter-intuitive to a gardener, doesn’t it? Who among us wants more bugs out there eating our plants?
But Dr. Tallamy spent a long time explaining that in a balanced garden, the insect damage is insignificant and nearly unnoticeable because those bugs get eaten up by our happy bird tenants.
Which brings us back to our Joe Pye Weed, in a round about sort of way…
Do you see how many insects are gorging themselves on the nectar provided by this one gigantic bloom? When we plant nectar rich native plants, we support a huge variety of insects, and the insects feed our birds.
And we don’t have to be native purists to achieve a rich web of life in our gardens.
We just have to be smart enough to select natives which support a variety of species.
Native trees, like Oaks and Birch each support hundreds of species of animal life.
If this interests you, please take a look at Dr. Tallamy’s book, which goes into useful detail about how this all works; and how to strategically include the best native species of plants in your wildlife garden.
And this lovely Joe Pye Weed is a step in that direction for us.
While we watch for the butterflies to find it, we’ll also appreciate the beautiful nectar loving insects it brings to our Forest Garden.
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014