attracting wild pollinators bee forage varietal honey

Joe-Pye weed for the pollinator garden

Joe-Pye weed, Eutrochium purpureum, is a tall perennial plant in the Asteraceae family that is well-known for its ability to attract butterflies and other pollinators to the garden. It was named for a native American herbalist, Joe Pye, who used it to treat various ailments, including fevers.

A host of other names, including gravel root, kidney root, mist flower, purple boneset, queen of the meadow, and snakeroot make identification confusing. Once you see it, however, it is hard to forget.

Although native to eastern North American, the plant is especially popular in Great Britain where it is used in garden borders. Its excellence as a pollinator plant is enhanced by its blooming time—late summer through early fall—a period when most other species have stopped flowering.

The plant will grow in sun to partial shade in soil that is mildly acidic to mildly alkaline. It requires lots of water and will even grow in “wet spots” that ward off other flowering species. Planting areas most be chosen carefully due to the height of the plant. Some varieties may grow to 12 feet (3.5 meters) tall.

The flowers range from white, to pink, to purple—depending on the variety—and attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Although I have never seen honey from Joe-Pye weed, it is said to be a dark orange-amber color with a fruity flavor.


Joe-Pye Weed. Flickr photo by Liz West.

Swallowtail on Joe-Pye weed. Flickr photo by fireflies604.

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  • I have this big, lusty plant in all my beeyards. At home it is a manageable back of the border plant at 6′. At the beeyard built on an ancient manure pile, it is 8′ and the heads are over 1′ in span. Glorious! All pollinators including honey bees love this plant and it flowers over a long period, later in the summer. A great addition to the local forage menu!