Two Winter Joe-Pyes

by Carl Strang

Two of our reasonably common plants in genus Eupatorium are called Joe-Pye weeds. There’s the purple Joe-Pye with its spotted stems, and the spotted Joe-Pye with its purple stems. Make sense of that. Anyway, today we’ll see what they look like in winter. The spotted Joe-Pye weed, Eupatorium maculatum, grows in open places, usually in or beside wetlands. The leaves are whorled, and this can be seen in the winter form.

Two whorls are visible in this photo.

Two whorls are visible in this photo.

At this point in winter the seeds are gone, but the framework of the fruiting structure remains. The inflorescence is described as flat-topped.

Though not obviously flat-topped now, the structure is large and spreading, and at least some of the lower stalks are relatively long to provide some sense of what might have been a somewhat flat-topped flower array.

Though not obviously flat-topped now, the structure is large and spreading, and at least some of the lower stalks are relatively long to provide some sense of what might have been a somewhat flat-topped flower array.

Here it is in bloom.

Here it is in bloom.

The rough-surfaced pedicels are attractive, I think, in winter.

Spotted Joe-Pye close look

Spotted Joe-Pye close look

Now we move to the nearby savanna and find some purple Joe-Pye weeds. They, like our first species, are very tall.

Purple Joe-Pye weeds also have whorled leaves.

Purple Joe-Pye weeds also have whorled leaves.

At Mayslake Forest Preserve, at least, the fruiting heads are smaller than those of spotted Joe-Pye weeds, and have a more compact, oval form in winter.

Again I find these structures delightful in their shape and texture.

Again I find these structures delightful in their shape and texture.

Habitat alone tells much of the tale in distinguishing these two plants, but taking a little time to compare them was an enjoyable winter project.

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1 Comment

  1. MJ said,

    February 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    You can take photos of the Joe-Pyes on The Acre anytime. Lovely shots!


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