Joe Pye Weed, one of our favorite wildflowers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Joe – Pye Weed: Summer Ends, as it must. And you can tell its end is near and autumn’s arrival close at hand by what is happening in the fields of Cades Cove. The plants that bloom now are the tall ones. Like Ironweed and Goldenrod and Joe-Pye weed. Plants that, out of necessity, tower over their neighbors in order to get their share of the sunlight, now lessening each day. Although they are present in the meadows and woodlands all summer long, they remain inconspicuous until they begin to bloom in late July or early August. Moreover, their flowers differ from those of the spring and summer plants with colors that are deeper and darker.
Most often found in low-lying moist meadows near woodlands, Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) is more than a harbinger of summer’s final weeks. It is an excellent wildflower, worthy of domesticating in our own gardens. Because of its height (5 to 7 feet), it creates a perfect backdrop for borders of flowers and shrubs, blooming when many other plants have stopped.
Joe-Pye weed loves full sun but tolerates partial shade, though it may not grow as tall. It does require a moist to wet humus and so is not very drought tolerant. Maintaining a thick mulch helps solve this problem, however.
Its dusky pink flowers develop as whorls of tiny blossoms atop a strong pinkish stem that, conveniently, requires no staking, despite its height. Also the flowers give off a rich vanilla-like scent and are much loved by a wide variety of butterflies, making Joe-Pye weed a perfect addition to a pollinator garden.
It has no insect enemies but is susceptible to powdery mildew and rust, especially when air circulation is blocked by neighboring plants. Therefore, proper spacing, typically 2 to 4 feet, is important.
Whether you watch for it in our wild meadows or in your own backyard, Joe-Pye weed is a wildflower well worth knowing.
For more on Joe-Pye weed see the Missouri Botanical Garden website:
Joe – Pye Weed.
HeySmokies.com is honored to have Carl Parsons as a contributing writer. Carl is Deputy Editor for Storyteller Magazine, a member of the Writers’ Guild of Sevier County, TN, and a Tennessee Master Gardener.