Eutrochium (Eupatorium) Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium

(u-pah-tore' ee-um pur-pur' ee-um)

Common name: Joe-Pye Weed, Boneset, Thoroughout

Family: Asteraceae, Aster

Height x width: 5-7' x 3-4'

Growth rate: moderate

Foliage: whorled with usually 3-5 leaves per node, lanceolate, serrated; cane-like stems purplish at nodes; vanilla scent to crushed leaves for purpureum; short-stalked or not, coarsely toothed or not depending on species

Flowers: small purple or white flowers in a large corymb-like panicle 12-18" across, flat-topped or domed depending on species, on branched terminal short stalks; late summer to early fall

Hardiness: zones 4-6 to 8 depending on species

Soil: moist to wet (except rugosum which needs well-drained and album which prefers dry)

Light: sun to part shade (rugosum tolerates more shade)

Pests and Problems: leaves scorch if dry or hot

Landscape habit, uses: naturalizing in wet areas, often seen along wet roadside ditches, good for poor sites, structural background in moist borders, butterfly gardens

Other interest: native to eastern North America, this plant has become more popular in British gardens than those in this country being considered a roadside weed by many here; named for Eupator, king of Pontus, who legend has used one species as a poison antidote; legend also tells of a Native American, Joe Pye, who used this plant to cure fevers and American colonists used it to treat an outbreak of typhus; Boneset usually applies to native species with coarsely toothed leaves and white flowers; originally it is, and often still is, listed by the genus synonym Eupatorium, or Eupatoriadelphus; this revised genus separates them from the bonesets (Eupatorium) which have opposite leaves with Eutrochium having whorled leaves.

Other culture: pruning in early summer will reduce final plant height to 3-4'; in borders may need dividing every 3 years

Propagation: spring division, seeds, stem cuttings


Several species and cultivars are increasingly being seen in nurseries and gardens and are so marked *, with all except cannabinum (European native) and chinense (eastern Asia native) being seen wild. E. coelestinum is placed by some taxonomists in Conoclinum coelstinum.
Species, common name zones height flowers, top foliage, other
album, White Boneset 5-8 1-3' white, flat opposite, stem hairy, big teeth
altissimum, Tall Boneset 4-8 4-6' white, flat opposite, few teeth
aromaticum, Smaller White Boneset 5-8 3-5' white, flat opposite, thick, short stalked
cannabinum, Hemp Agrimony 5-8 4-5' mauve, flat opposite, cannabis-like
chinense, Asian Boneset 7-8 4-6' white, flat opposite
*coelestinum, Hardy Ageratum 5-8 2-3' blue, flat opposite, ageratum-like 
dubium, Eastern Joe Pye Weed 4-8 4-6' purple, domed whorled, speckled stem
fistulosum, Hollow Joe Pye Weed 4-8 5-7' purple, domed whorled, hollow stems
hyssopifolium, Hyssop-leaved B. 5-8 4-5' white, flat whorled, narrow
leucolepis, White-bracted Boneset 5-8 5-8 white, flat opposite, coastal areas
*maculatum, Spotted Joe Pye Weed 4-8 4-5' purple, flat whorled, speckled stems
perfoliatum, Common Boneset 4-8 4-6' white, flat perfoliate, leathery leaves
pilosum, Rough Boneset 5-8 3-5' white, flat opposite, hairy stems
pubescens, Hairy Boneset 5-8 3-5' white, flat opposite, hairy stems, toothed
*purpureum, Scented Joe Pye Weed 4-8 4-5' purple, domed whorled, vanilla scented
rotundifolium, Round-leaved B. 5-8 3-5' white, flate opposite, small, few teeth
rugosum, White Snakeroot 4-8 3-5' white, flat opposite, lanceolate 
sessilifolium, Upland Boneset 5-8 4-6' white, flat opposite, lanceolate, fine teeth

 (purpureum photo courtesy commons wikimedia, Kurt Stueber) 

Cultivar species flowers other
'Album' cannabinum white  
*'Album' coelestinum white  
'Atropurpureum' maculatum purple purple stems and leaf veins
'Bartered Bride' fistulosum white tall, zone 5
'Braunlaub' rugosum white brownish (tawny) leaves
'Chocolate' rugosum white chocolate leaves and stems, new
*'Cori' coelestinum blue  
'Flore Pleno' cannabinum mauve double flowers
*'Gateway' maculatum red large flowers, dark red stems, tall

 ('Gateway' photo courtesy Missouri botanical gardens plantfinder)

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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