A rugged, hairy plant of dryish prairies and habitats, tall boneset attracts multitudes of insects with its clusters of white blossoms August-October. While the flowers of tall boneset look similar to those of common boneset, tall boneset blooms later in the season. The two species can also be distinguished by the leaves, with common boneset having opposite leaves that join around the stem.
Tall boneset favors disturbed areas, where it may form large colonies in prairies, thickets, woodland openings, field margins and along railroads. The easiest boneset to grow in dry, sunny areas, it’s wonderful for quickly establishing native plant gardens and naturalized landscapes. Spreads readily by self-seeding.
Grows 3-6’ tall and 2-3’ wide.
Prefers full sun to part shade. Appreciates afternoon shade in hotter climates.
Does best in medium or dry well-drained soil, including clay and gravel. Has good drought tolerance, but may wilt.
Leaves are 2-5” long with tiny hairs and small-toothed edges on lower foliage. Leaves have three distinct parallel veins. Boneset tends to be resistant to foliar disease.
Erect stems are green or reddish brown and unbranched except near the top.
Eupatorium hosts 32 species of Lepidoptera, including 3 specialist moths that can only feed on Eupatorium: three-lined flower, boneset borer, and iva flower moths (picured here in that order). The nectar of the flowers attracts many kinds of insects, including long- and short-tongued bees, beewolves, wasps, flies, small butterflies, skippers, beetles, and plant bugs. Wasps and flies are especially common visitors, including paper, thread-waisted, scoliid, lorraine, sand, and spider wasps, and syrphid, bee, tachinid, and muscid flies.
Medicinal and Edible Uses:
According to some experts, boneset gets its name for its ability to relieve the bone aches associated with severe fever symptoms, and to assist in healing broken bones. Although potentially toxic, it was widely used during the Civil War in the south because it was readily available and effective at treating symptoms. Native Americans taught European settlers to use this plant as a principal herbal remedy. It was used well into the 20th century in rural areas. It had a bitter taste and was served as a cold or hot tea that caused patients to sweat and thus break the fever.
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