The first native plant I planted in my garden was Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) and it is the perfect plant to introduce gardeners to native plants.
There is currently controversy in the plant and gardening world on what makes a plant native to an area. I am going to follow the 80-20 rule here in my definition. A plant that was in an area before European settlement is considered native and I would argue that is correct eighty percent of the time.
The reason I have a fondness for native plants is that I get more than interesting foliage and pretty blooms. I get to observe nature at work just by going into my garden. Native plants and local wildlife evolved together so I am sure to see local wildlife up close doing their thing. This may mean watching a Monarch butterfly lay eggs on a milkweed plant or bluebirds feeding their young caterpillars from a white pine.
Every native plant offers something different to the local wildlife community. Joe Pye Weed offers late season blooms for the bees and butterflies that need that extra fix of nectar before hibernation or before they migrate south. Joe Pye Weed blooms from August until the first heavy frost. It forms clumps with sturdy stems that get to about four feet high and they do not flop over. The very pretty pink-to-mauve blooms attract butterflies, such as Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Great Spangled Fritillary, Pearl Crescent, Monarch, and the Tawny-edged Skipper, and bees.
Joe Pye Weed is native to the eastern North America. Supposedly, it got its common name from Joe Pye, a healer in colonial New England who used Eupatorium purpureum to cure fevers. The American Indians used Eupatorium purpureum to treat kidney stones.
Joe Pye Weed grows best in full sun and moist soil. Since it blooms late in the season, I am able to get closer to having three seasons of bloom in the garden. Plus it adds height to the garden as well as movement as the tall stems sway in the wind.
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