Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Friday, September 3, 2010


The dwarf Joe Pye weed (above, left) seemed perfect for my garden. Especially after I brought home a trial pot of it from a Garden Writers Symposium in '06. This new variety 'Little Joe' (Eupatorium dubium) was supposed to grow only 3-4' tall, unlike it's cousin the native Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) that grows up to 10' high. I plunked it in the only empty pot I had and in spring surrounded it with lettuce seeds. It did what it was supposed to do, starting in late summer and blooming into fall and looked great for three years, fast becoming one of my favorite container plants.
When I transplanted everything into new pots early March '10 , the 'Little Joe' wasn't yet showing leaves and I forgot to look for it. After all the pots were replanted, it was among the missing. It must have gone out with the other old roots and dried stems. Onward and upward, and I'll buy a new one some other time.
In the Garden
Sure, if you have pond and a few acres, the native Joe Pye is ideal for the back of the border.I used to gather armfuls of flower stems for drying just as they were coming into bloom. The delicate mauve blossoms were a perfect filler for any dried arrangement. Double click on the image above to view another favorite, Angelica gigas in front of the Joe Pye.
Around Town
I see 'Little Joe' in many of the NYC parks. My favorite sighting is on The High Line where it's one of the late summer points of flower interest.Back on my Roof
By late July this summer,
I noticed some familiar
looking, heavily veined
and textured leaves.
There, by a juniper,
crowding my new dwarf
nandina and quince, is
the old 'Little Joe'. Still
don't know if the roots
got thrown in this pot
or seeds had distributed
themselves and
naturalized here, but
I'm grateful to see a
favorite, and still with
its following, a crowd
of butterflies, somehow
realizing that there
was tempting nectar
on the 18th floor of
my building.

Joe Pye weed is famous for attracting swallowtails and monarchs, but here on the Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York City, painted ladies are flitting all over my 'Little Joe'.Herbal Use
Eupatoriums have a long history of medicinal use by the Chinese and American Indians, with the Joe Pye weed especially useful for its rhizomes. In the "New Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses", Deni Brown ed. cites uses "internally for kidney and urinary disorders, including stones, cystitis...prostate problems...painful menstruation, or history of miscarriage and difficult labor", Eupatoriums also have immune-stimulant and anti-cancer properties but can be toxic. Definitely not just a pretty face.

1 comment:

Ellen Spector Platt said...

LK sent in this: I especially loved the picture of the painted lady on the little joe! Put a smile on my face this a.m.

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