Monday, August 12, 2013

Joe Pye Weed Sure Brings in the Butterflies and a Helpful Visitor

When I am not working on the land and establishing the orchard and gardens there I can sit on my back deck and watch a flutter of movement on the massive Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium (used to be Eupatorium) purpureum) growing my garden. What a delight!
I have never seen the Joe Pye get as big as it has this year. I am quite sure all of the rain has had a lot to do with that but I also think my siting of the Joe Pye worked out well too. I have it sited in a low area behind some 'Limelight' hydrangeas where it will get part sun. These Joe Pyes are fully seven feet tall and in a clump about 6-7' round. The amount of swallowtail butterflies is staggering. I can't even count them all.
Looking closely at this picture of the garden along with Joe Pye weed you can see several swallowtails on the Joe Pye Weed even at this distance; which is on my deck and is about 100' away.  More on this garden later. 
Not Joe Pye weed but a fascinating creature all of its own. While moving some hay bales on the farm I was introduced to this critter. It was happily sleeping under a hay bale I rudely moved. Thinking is was a mass of slugs at first I almost took my shovel to it. I am so glad I did not! This is what I believe to be a rat snake and rat snakes are a gardeners friend. They eat rodents; which is very important in my garden. Additionally, rat snakes are not dangerous to humans. Farmer Fix-it and I simply looked at it and moved on. When we next looked at the hay bale this snake had quietly disappeared. We did a little research on the blue eyes and believe them to be because the snake is getting ready to go through a shed cycle. We found that most interesting.
Finally, one last picture of a swallowtail on the Joe Pye weed. If you like butterflies you will surely want to plant Joe Pye weed. I have always grown it in my garden but I have never recommended it to clients because its bloom cycle is rather short and because Joe Pye can get rather straggly. That will change now....

in the garden....
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. Yes, these are great snakes to have around! Until the hounds are in the new garden, be careful as copperheads are not great snakes! They pack a mean punch...

  2. Good for you not to destroy your garden helper. I think it odd that I never see butterflies on my Joe Pye Weed. I wonder why???? Lucky you having such a good butterfly magnet and a slithering garden helper.

  3. Beautiful joe pye weed! I know the snake is good but what a surprise to find it. It's a wonder it didn't move when you uncovered it.

  4. So that's where all the butterflies are! We've had so few this year, I haven't gotten a photo of one in months. I do love Joe Pye, though, and added another one as well as a 'Little Joe' this year. You're right about their short bloom cycle, but I think even the faded blooms are pretty.

    I know snakes can be garden helpers, but I'd be 20 feet away in a flash if I suddenly uncovered one:)

  5. Your butterfly photos are pretty Tina. I agree, the Joe Pye Weed is huge up here too. It is in the parks but no butterflies unfortunately.

  6. Tina, my Limelight has gotten so tall (it's in partial shade) that I might try the reverse of what you have, with Little Joe partially in front of the hydrangea. But, then I'm not as ambitious as you and your husband are on these muggy, late-summer days. Maybe a fall project. Congratulations on the arrival of your little grandson Riley. He will enjoy coming to your farm some day!

  7. A special plant indeed. In the low ground along the prairie bike trails Joe Pye is graving a great year....:)

  8. I should give Joe Pye a try here in Florida. I guess he'd like the heat. Maybe Little Joe to start with. Hoss is too imposing:)

  9. Love the Joe Pye weed with the Hydrangea paniculata ....great combo. Snakes are pretty cool, but it always makes me pause when I see one.