Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Favorite Plant in the Garden...

Is a wildflower. Which is why I'm also making this my Wildflower Wednesday post. (I know it's Thursday, so I'm a day late.)

The plant that is the focus of my post today is Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate.' Or, as those crazy taxonomists have re-named it -- Ageratina altissima. Its common name is Chocolate Joe Pye Weed, so named because it's a variety that has dark stems and leaves.  The species is also known as tall boneset or white snakeroot. I'm just going to call it Chocolate Joe Pye Weed.

I love Chocolate Joe Pye Weed because even in my fog-shrouded garden, I can see those bright white frothy flowers from across the large expanse of green grass in my back garden.

It's almost the only thing still flowering in my back garden.

The leaves on mine aren't particularly chocolatey at the moment, but the stems are nice and dark. The leaves are darker in the summer, when the sun is out pretty much all day.

White Snakeroot is an eastern North American woodland native. It contains a poison called tremetol, which was responsible for causing milk sickness in cows and in humans, when passed on to them in contaminated milk. In other parts of the country, it's been known to reseed aggressively, and the seedlings are reportedly not as dark as the parent plant. I've had it planted in this spot for four years, and have never seen a single seedling, maybe because it flowers so late. I have a feeling we always get a frost long before the flowers mature into seeds.

Everything in my garden right now is festooned by dew-laden spider webs. I considered doing a post on my favorite animal in the garden instead. Here in the PNW, it's a safe bet that all the orb-shaped webs in the garden right now, in mid-autumn, were made by a spider called Araneus diadematus, or Cross Spider. I did a post about it last year, which you can read here.

This sweet girl, a Cross Spider, has been hanging out near my potting bench for a couple of weeks now. Her web is also near my kitchen window, which provides light in the evening, probably attracting all kinds of yummy flying critters for her to feast upon.

Here are some stats about Chocolate Joe Pye Weed.

Height: 3-5 feet
Width: 2-3 feet
Sun: Full sun to part shade (best color in full sun)
Soil: Humusy and moist (mine is planted in the low spot in my back garden)
Hardiness: Zone 4-8

You can probably find Chocolate Joe Pye Weed at your local nursery, it's a pretty popular plant. But if not, it's also available from these online nurseries.

North Creek Nurseries
Bluestone Perennials
Joy Creek Nursery
Lazy S's Farm Nursery
Digging Dog

You can read lots more about Chocolate Joe Pye Weed at Plant Lust here.

The Favorite Plant in the Garden meme is hosted by Loree at danger garden. You can read about her favorite here, and don't forget to check out the comments, where you'll find links to posts by other bloggers.

Wildflower Wednesday is hosted by Gail at the blog clay and limestone on the fourth Wednesday of every month. You can find her current post here, as well as links to other blog posts that focus on wildflowers.


  1. The taxonomists seem to be hell-bent on driving us to use common names. Your garden looks lovely in the fog.

  2. Wonderful post, Alison. Whatever you choose to call it, that's a beautiful plant. The spider is wonderful, too.

  3. I love it, too, Alison. It's such a pretty flower and the little bees are happy when it blooms. I have had some seedlings, but, not this year...We have an early freeze forecast for tonight. It's okay topost a day late I leave the post up for a week! xogail

  4. One of my favorite great for my mix of sun and shade. I don't really think about it as a flowering plant most of the year...but you're right...once it starts blooming I adore those big fluffy white blooms!

  5. Joe pye doesn't seem to like my sandy soil. Which is a shame , I love it !

  6. I accidently (?) plucked a seed head of a Joe Pye tonight while on a walk, it was gorgeous. This is one of those plants I adore, but won't probably ever plant in my own garden. Thankfully there are plenty around town to love. As for the! I can't bring anything into the house without carefully shaking it down, they are everywhere!!!

  7. I love your spider web photo. I took some web photos today too. Those beads of fog moisture persist.
    I have chocolate Joe Pye weed, but not in a showy place. I have few places that get enough sun for prairie plants.

  8. Wildflower? Why not! Love the airy and delicate look of the plant and its blooms!

  9. Oh gee Alison, when you said you were growing weed, I thought of something altogether different. Anyway, pretty plant and gorgeous spider!

  10. I love the ex-Eupatorium coelestinum I planted this year, already flowering, and am considering some more of that genus, the rugosum Chocolate is intriguing, with the dark stems. It's interesting that it blooms late enough to perhaps not set seed, and has a poison element. The spiders are everywhere in my yard too, I'm always walking into their webs, they usually hit me in the face!

  11. I love Chocolate Joe as well and he grows in my garden!

  12. Pretty for fall and I have seen mentions of Chocolate Joe Pye weed so it's nice to see a post on it.

    We have a similar native plant called Fragrant Mistflower, boneset, throughtwort, Ex-Eupatorium havenense now Ageratina havenensis (you'd think that they would at least keep the second part the same!). It's about to bloom in my garden and is one of my favorite fall flowers.

  13. Do you have to stake yours? I planted some this summer and it all flopped terribly. Yours looks so beautiful!


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