Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

The Purple Robe Of Fall

This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in 2010. It’s September in Appalachia and the roadsides are once again taking on a purple hue.

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

Folklore about ironweed
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 hurrah 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.



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  • Reply
    Cheryl McPherson
    December 30, 2020 at 7:35 am

    There is a wonderful poem called Ironweed by Robert Morgan. I’m not sure about the properness of copying and posting a published piece, so here is a link to it. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/06/ironweed/308097/

  • Reply
    Mary Berrong
    September 23, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks Tipper! Just yesterday I was admiring this “Purple Robe” of Fall and couldn’t think of the name. I love the Fall wildflowers!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2012 at 1:14 am

    that ironweed is gorgeous.. i wish we had it around here… as purple is my favorite color.. and that poem that Rush wrote.. wow such talented blind pig readers… 🙂
    hope all are enjoying the changing season.. it always makes me nostalgic tho… sigh.. have a wonderful week.. filled with laughter and love
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    September 7, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Trout Lily in the spring promises warm days ahead & Ironweed in the fall reminds us to enjoy the warmth while we have it!

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    September 7, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Ironweed and some hang-me-over Goldenrods…A stick or two of Joe Pye Weed and maybe a left over orange Butterfly weed, then add a dash of yellow Wild Artichoke…makes me a beautiful near fall arrangement…
    PS…The Kudzu is intoxicating around Moms. where it has overgrown and crept into the bushes and tree near an old fence…It is a shame that the stems of the blooms do not rise up above the great three leaves and show off their purple, lavender pea-like blossoms…
    TGIF….Tipper, have a good weekend!

  • Reply
    C. Ken Flowers
    September 7, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    I did discover something interesting today. It’s about pokeberries. Did you know they grow on a plant? And here I thought all along that they only grew on car hoods and windshields!

  • Reply
    Gorges Smythe
    September 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I always liked the dark honey that my bees made at this time of year from all the ironweeds, asters, goldenrod, joe-pye weed and such.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Beautiful sentiment, Tipper!
    I hate to see summer ending and winter coming too, but I’d never be able to express it as poetically as you.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I see the ironweeds growing too.
    But I got morning glorys of two
    or three colors growing on the
    white runner strings and wires
    that once florished in my garden.
    The coming of wall will be a
    welcome sight for me. The heat
    and humidity will be gone and
    the changing colors can be seen
    for miles…Ken

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I thought that I would share with everyone a poem I wrote that was inspired by the colors of the Fall/flowers – scarlets, gold and blues & their connection to the Feasts of this season.
    The King is in the field!
    He is walking all the vineyards.
    Leaving remembrance of the Old Path . . .
    Dressed in scarlets, gold and blues.
    Bring in your sheaves from the harvest!
    And find rest from all your labors.
    The former rains have become a bounty . . .
    A flowing river of wine and truth.
    So let us bathe in tears of teshuva.
    Dressing ourselves in holy flax.
    Sound the Shofar in joyous thanksgiving . . .
    And let us shout and eat and dance!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    The ironweed is very beautiful. I’ve never seen it before. We don’t have it here, nor anywhere else I’ve lived. Lucky you!!! The brilliant greens of summer here are starting to get the typical brassy look they have this time of year. My tomatoes are finally starting to put on tomatoes (only 3 months late) and I have 3 tiny eggplants about 3 inches long. I have 1 pumpkin on the plant I bought that was supposed to be a spaghetti squash. Gardening is always a fun and interesting experience. I have one small squash on the plant that I bought that was supposed to be a zucchini…but doesn’t look like a zucchini at all. Not sure what sort of a squash it’s actually going to be. The Indigo Rose tomatoes are a deep indigo blue purple color. Fascinating. They aren’t my favorite for flavor certainly, but they do taste like a modern tomato….I’m more partial to the heritage/heirloom varieties. I’m going to cut parsley and chives and savory today and pull the last of the beets. Have to find out if it’s too early to plant garlic here yet…will be my first year trying that and a friend was wonderful and gifted me the garlic to plant…2 varieties a soft neck and a hard neck.

  • Reply
    C. Ken Flowers
    September 7, 2012 at 11:31 am

    A cold gray fog hang over me as I traversed the path to my place of employment this morning, impeding my progress and my search for the purple robed Ironweed. Perhaps this afternoon’s sunlight will reveal the beauty that has today eluded me, however the forecast of thunderstorms might yet dampen today’s efforts.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    September 7, 2012 at 9:40 am

    The property Grover and I owned and where we lived for over 30 years in Epworth had ironwood growing on the band of our “field”. We would let it grow and mature just to see the beautiful purple flowers on those tough stems in the fall. Ours were the tall variety, too. I’m reminded upon seeing your pictures of ironweed this quotation by George Washington Carver: “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    September 7, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Ironweed season never lasts long enough for me. I like the purple of ironweed with the red of Sumac or better the orange-red of “Necked Ladies” (Lycoris radiata).

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    September 7, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Such beautiful pictures. I probably have some here, but I only notice them when I walk the roads here in the foothills. My fall plants are starting to let their buds bloom. I had one yesterday. I’m still pulling weeds. I’m not ready to rid my arbor from the morning/moon flowers as they are so pretty. You have made me want to do a morning walk. Oh, the beautiful wonders of Mother Nature!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Speaking of tall versions of things, the jewelweed is looking pretty sparse here now as the nights get cooler, but yesterday I found a plant growing over my head! Maybe I haven’t been paying attention? Jewelweed always seemed to stop at about thigh-high where it grows along my driveway and roadsides.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 9:10 am

    I love this post Tipper, I have been feeling exactly the same way! I see Ironweed all around, and find it so refreshing with the “old agedness” of summer. And it looks like this weekend will have temperatures that tell us fall is certainly on it’s way! Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Leo at Cottage at the Crossroads
    September 7, 2012 at 9:07 am

    The Iron Weed makes me want to take a road trip to the mountains. I think we will.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    September 7, 2012 at 9:02 am

    I guessed kudzu also. I had tons of the purple, but a lot has already gone.

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    September 7, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Ironweed is my favorite fall flower. It grows abundantly here.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 8:31 am

    There is something beautiful and unique about every season.

  • Reply
    C. Ken Flowers
    September 7, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Oops! Change that to Ironweed!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 7:53 am

    The beautiful purple ironwood blooms are everywhere here too. I love seeing them knowing fall is on it’s way.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    September 7, 2012 at 7:43 am

    We get wild purple asters here in PA, which are pretty.
    Hey, Tipper…. I must have missed it, but what is the thing growing up outside your kitchen window? You mentioned fairies and I was intrigued. People guessed kudzu. What is it??

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    September 7, 2012 at 7:43 am

    I have been bush hogging for the last couple of afternoons. I am getting some of the tall ironweed in my field. It’s almost too pretty to cut down. I am also seeing many of the big green praying mantis. I slow down to let them get out of the way of the tractor. They must be catching some of the fall grasshoppers.

  • Reply
    C. Ken Flowers
    September 7, 2012 at 7:20 am

    I shall be looking along those thoroughfares which convey me to and from my livelihood for the lovely autumnal Ironwood blossom.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 7, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Beautiful, wish I was there.

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