Boneset for more butterflies

Judith Adam

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Eupatorium 'Gateway' (Photo curiosity of
Eupatorium 'Gateway' (Photo curiosity of
Eupatorium ‘Gateway’ (Photo curiosity of

A week’s vacation in Algonquin Park in Ontario has convinced me I need more butterflies in the garden.

Every back road was lined with hazy purple flowerheads of wild boneset or Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium spp.), each with a fluttery gathering of monarch, mourning cloak and red admiral butterflies. Some of the bonesets are quite statuesque, like E. purpureum subsp. maculatum ‘Atropurpureum’ (7 to 10 feet / 2 to 3 m, Zone 4), with purple-spotted stems and broad rose-purple flowerheads. That makes a memorable impression!

What I have is the more compact ‘Gateway’ (5 to 6 feet / 1.5 to 1.8 m, Zone 4) of the same species, with dark wine-red stems and dusky pink flowers.

Butterflies love these plants, and I’d like to get a collection going. I’ll be looking for another cultivar in the same group, ‘Bartered Bride’ (6 to 8 feet, 1.8 to 2.4 m, Zone 5), which makes a striking display with huge creamy white flower domes. These bonesets are terrific plants, bringing height, colour and beautiful fluttery things to the autumn garden.

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2 thoughts on “Boneset for more butterflies”

  1. Hello Ann (August 31)
    How nice to find something interesting in your ditch! Yes, there is Eupatorium purpureum subsp. maculatum ‘Bartered Bride’, with creamy white flowers. Another is E. rugosum ‘Chocolate’ (synonymous with Ageratina altissima ‘Chocolate’), that has bronze-brown leaves in spring, then turning to green in summer, and fuzzy white flowers in late summer. I haven’t seen either of these myself, but will be looking for them next spring. They must be around somewhere, so keep your eyes open.
    — Judith

  2. I found a nice white Boneset in my front ditch and moved a small piece to a flowerbed where it’s very happy. Looked it up in my Newcomb’s and I think it’s also called Snakeroot. As well a Joe Pye Weed seeded itself into the garden. Happy findings and yes the butterflies do love them.
    Do you think there is a commercially grown white boneset? Ann


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