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The Tall and Full of Nectar, Sweet Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Sweet Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) is a herbaceous perennial that grows in open areas such as fields, meadows, gardens, woodland edges, and roadsides, where there is moist soil. The pink flowers bloom in the summer to early fall. It is not a host plant, but is a common nectar plant for many insects. This plant can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Taxonomy and Naming of Sweet Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Herbarium specimen of sweet joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium purpureum).
Herbarium Specimen — Eutrochium purpureum (L.) E.E.Lamont collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0)


Sweet Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) was described by Carl Von Linnaeus, in 1753 in Species Plantarum as Eupatorium purpureum. Recently, this species was placed in a new genus, Eutrochium, by Eric Lamont in 2004 (Lamont 2004). This plant is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).


Sweet Joe-Pye Weed has three varieties, Eutrochium purpureum var. purpureum, E. purpureum var. carolinianum, and E. purpureum var. holzingeri. Both var. purpureum and holzingeri have lanceolate to narrowly ovate leaves, while var. carolinianum has ovate to elliptic leaves. The teeth are also blunter in var. carolinianum than the other two (Sorrie 2010). Variety holzingeri is restricted to the midwest, while the others range in the eastern United States, with var. carolinianum being restricted to North and South Carolina.

Meaning of the Scientific and Common Names

Scientific Name

The genus name, Eutrochium, means “wheel-like” in reference to the whorled leaves. The species names, purpureum, mean purple in Latin referring to the purple color of the flowers.

Common Names

The common name, Sweet Joe-Pye Weed, refers to the scent of the leaves when crushed, which have a vanilla scent (NC Extension Gardener). Another name, sweetscented Joe-Pye weed also derives from the scent. Other names, purple Joe-Pye Weed, purple boneset, and purple-node Joe-Pye weed, come from the color of either the flowers or the stem nodes. One, Joe-Pye weed is just a generic name.

Physical Description of Sweet Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Plant of sweet joe=pye-weed (Eutrochium purpureum) with purple flowers.
Flowers of Sweet Joe-Pye-Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) — Robert Coxe, Image
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Height: 2 to 7 feet depending on conditions
  • Leaves: opposite and whorled, lanceolate to elliptic, simple, serrate to bluntly serrate that are up to 12 inches in length and 5 to 6 inches wide.
  • Stem: Green with purple at the nodes
  • Flower color: Pink to purple
  • Blooming period: July to October
  • Fruiting type and period: black achenes — August to October

Range and Habitat

Plant of sweet joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium purpureum) in a garden.
Plant of Sweet Joe-Pye-Weed in a garden — Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Range map of sweet joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium purpureum) in the United States and Canada.

This species is found in the mid-west and eastern United States, except for Maine.


Sweet Joe-Pye Weed grows in places with full sun or part shade such as fields, woods margins, gardens, roadsides, and meadows.

Insects that use it as a Nectar Plant

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on purple flower.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly — Meganmccarty, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Nectar Species

This plant is a common nectar source for butterflies, bees, flies, and other insects. There is no host for the plant.


  • Lamont, Eric. 2004. New Combinations in Eutrochium (Asteraceae: Eupatorieae), An Earlier Name than Eupatoriadelphus. Sida 21: 901-902.
  • Sorrie, Bruce. 2010. A new variety of Eutrochium purpureum (Eupatorieae: Asteraceae). Phytoneuron 2010-43:1-6.

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