Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia


Roadsides and fields have put on their purple robe-Ironweed is in full bloom in the southern mountains of Appalachia.

I read somewhere that Ironweed got it’s name because it’s stalk is too tough for grazing animals to eat. Ironweed spreads easily-and I’ve noticed it’s taken over more than one old field.

Tall ironweed

There is a low growing Ironweed and a tall variety. The Ironweed that lines my driveway is the tall variety-it must be close to 7 feet tall-as you can see from the photo it drapes over into the road.

The Foxfire 11 book quotes Charles Thurmond on the subject of using Ironweed for medicinal purposes:

“Ironweed is very gentle. You don’t really realize it’s working. You make a concoction and use it on the surface of the skin for skin disease and things like that.”

Ironweed last hurrah of summer
This time of year-always feels old to me. The brightness of flower and vegetable gardens have mostly faded-and even the trees take on a lackluster look as they get ready for their show of fall color. I think of Ironweed as the last hurray of summer. It’s warm purple robe hugs the curvy roads I drive. It almost seems to be warning me:  Old Man Winter is on his way-store up the beauty and warmth that’s left from Summer-so you can pull it out on a cold winter’s day and know summer will surely return again.

Does Ironweed grow in your area?



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  • Reply
    David Templeton
    September 16, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    So, the plant is Ironweed. It’s quite common here in Indiana also and just as beautiful. But, I have never known its name. I have no allergies so I think Goldenrod is beautiful, too.
    Headed for East Tennessee for four days for the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion.
    I hope everyone has a great fall weekend.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Purple just happens to be my favorite color, it is nice to see wild plants like that.
    Whitetail Woods Blog / Blackpowder Shooting

  • Reply
    September 16, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Don’t think I’ve ever seen it but it’s very pretty.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Yep, we got it here, too.
    I’m wondering if there is a place that it doesn’t grow?!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 15, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    We have fields of ironweed — some years John mows but he hasn’t yet and it’s a glorious sight!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 15, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks Jim….why I can’t remember sulphur butterfly escapes me…since sulphur is yellow gold…but my memonic device between my ears is getting old..LOL..I had to refer to my old butterfly book, ours is the cloudless sulphur, been a long time since Girl Scouts…ha
    Also, we have a lot of Joe Pye weed here too and the “Flutterbyes” just love the stuff” LOL
    Tipper we should start a Monarch butterfly count like they do the hummingbird count or migration…

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    B. Ruth–I think the “cabbage butterflies” you are referring to are collectivley known as sulphurs. They are really moths, I believe, but like you, I have noticed they seem to be exceptionally lovely and abundant this year.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    September 15, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    no ironweed here, it is beautiful to behold. a wonderful purple robe to herald your coming winter months.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I will have to ask the Blacksmith, but I’m pretty sure we have iron weed. You see he’s in the woods more than I am.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Ironweed doesn’t grow in Cyprus yet its bright purple colour reminds me of our beautiful violets! In autumn, goldenrod and helenium grow on Troodos and , of course, there are chrysanthemums everywhere – which happen to be my mother’s favourite flowers.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    September 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    I really love this post, Tipper, especially the thoughts in your paragraph below the last picture.
    As you alluded to, the slightly less tall version of ironweed seems to take it upon itself to decorate abandoned fields – especially low-lying ones.
    As opposed to feeling old, I get a sense of general tiredness in nature this time of year. And it must be catching – I seem to feel that way myself.
    But it’s a proud and a good kind of tired, earned by a hard summer’s work, and often accompanied by something fine to show for it.
    Late summer seems to be a time when pink & purple are palpably preferred (say that out loud). In addition to ironweed, Joe Pye, gentian, lobelia, pink turtlehead, and the various versions of purple-hued asters come to mind.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Tipper–Nice topic, and I think ironweed is common as pig tracks all over the southern Appalachians. Two things you didn’t mention are: (1) It and Joe Pye weed seem to have an affinity for one another, because they often are found together. Both seem to thrive with wet feet. (2) Ironweed (and Joe Pye weed too) are absolute butterfly magnets. With that much at the entrance to your house, you are bound to be in the lap of lepidotristical (if there is such a word) luxury.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 15, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Forgot to tell you,
    Yes, Ironweed is plentiful here in our area of East Tennessee..as well as the Goldenrod..and another thing…I wanted to mention…Has anyone noticed how beautiful and large the butterflies have been just in the last few weeks. Sometimes at the end of the season their wings look a little ragged,etc..I have noticed more of the (what we call the yellow cabbage butterflies) the correct name escapes me now..are huge…I didn’t see as many of the white ones in the last two years..and the ones we saw were not as big..When we come up our driveway, we have a little muddy pool shady area…and it is like driving thru a butterfly snowfall every time we pass..Large Swallowtails male and female, Morning cloke, false monarchs, tiny purple, little buckeyes..I’ve never seen anything like it…I know they “puddle” for the minerals in the mud..but I have never seen so many..and all are larger than normal…I haven’t noticed the Monarchs traveling yet…we usually have zillions..(Well,not quite that many) but a lot and love to watch them…I think they start about the end of September into October…
    Sometimes I laugh when they flit and wander and come back for one more taste of a wild flower and then finally decide to head on their way…Don’t ‘cha just love this weather…

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 15, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Ironweed is abundant here also. I didn’t know it was good for skin ailments. However it is the goldenrod that I associate most with fall of the year.
    I am always a little sad in the fall. It’s not that I dislike fall or even winter for that matter but it’s just something saddens my heart when the light starts to change.
    speaking of skin remedies, yesterday I heard a remedy for moles that I’ve never heard before. It’s Polk Root salve. Ever heard of that?

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I think Ironweed and Goldenrod are the fall variation of purple and yellow spring flowers…like violets, daffodils and pansys…
    Seems like Mother nature wants to begin and end her growing seasons with those favorite colors…in the homesteads and fields…
    Have you found your little mystery plant (pod, hip, etc. yet)
    It almost reminds me of a new little fig…but the leaves are not right…

  • Reply
    September 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Hey Tipper, I love ironweed. The purple blooms are so pretty. It grows very abudantly here in NW Florida too. We have both the tall and short varieties. Are the beauty berry bushes up your way getting all dolled up too. The berries are finally bright purple and look stunning.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    September 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Ironweed is abundant over here in east TN. I’ve always found it quite beautiful, and like you said Tipper, some welcome color to those that are fading quickly.

  • Reply
    Jill @ Frugal Plus
    September 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    How beautiful! Lavender is my favorite color 🙂

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