Thursday, March 30, 2017

2017 North Carolina Wildflower of the Year

The North Carolina Botanical Garden and the Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. are co-sponsors of the North Carolina Wildflower of the Year program. In 2011 the groups celebrated thirty years of this conservation project, which was initiated in 1982. The project's aim is to actively promote, each year, throughout the state and region an attractive plant that is native to the southeastern United States.
Eutrochium fistulosum rendered
by artist Dot Wilbur-Brooks.

Hollow-stem joe-pye-weed
Eutrochium fistulosum

Hollow-stem joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium fistulosum), is a striking native perennial that refuses to go unnoticed or be overlooked. Formerly known as Eupatorium fistulosum, hollow-stem joe-pye-weed is a stately member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) that occurs throughout the eastern and south central United States. In the wild, it can be found in moist woods, meadows, bogs and marshes, but it is also commonly seen in roadside ditches. It thrives in sites with full to filtered sunlight and average to wet soil. As its name implies, hollow-stem joe-pye-weed has hollow, smooth stems that distinguish it from other species of joe-pye-weed, such as spotted joe-pye-weed (E. maculatum) and purple-node joe-pye-weed (E. purpureum). Its leaves are large but fairly narrow and are arranged in whorls of 3-7 at nodes along the stem, with five leaves per node being typical.

Beginning in mid-summer and lasting into early fall, hollow-stem joe-pye-weed comes into full glory with dramatic clouds of large domed flower heads, each one composed of numerous tiny mauve-pink flowers. The nectar-rich flowers of this species are pollinator magnets, attracting multitudes of butterflies, bees, wasps and other nectar-feeding insects. It seems to be a favorite of the swallowtail butterflies and it is not uncommon to see at least a dozen tiger swallowtails feeding together at the same time on one clump.

Hollow-stem joe-pye-weed is not for the faint of heart. It can grow up to eight feet tall (or taller in soils that stay consistently moist) and although it is not aggressively rhizomatous, it can eventually form large clumps up to four feet wide. Nevertheless, don’t let its impressive stature deter you from including this magnificent species in your home landscapes. If its towering height is too imposing for your space, it can be cut down halfway in June and it will regrow shorter and bushier. Whether it is cut back or left to reach great heights, hollow-stem joe-pye-weed can be used as a dramatic focal point in the back of a perennial border or as a structural specimen in a mixed planting with asters (Sympyotrichum spp.), tickseed (Coreopsis spp.), beebalm (Monarda spp.), and rough-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa). It is also appropriate for use in rain gardens or along pond margins and is a “must have” in any pollinator garden.

General information about the N.C. Wildflower of the Year program and how to order seeds.

The illustration of the Hollow-stem joe-pye-weed above was created by Dot Wilbur-Brooks. We have printed this design on T-shirts, available for purchase in the NC Botanical Gardens Garden Shop.

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