Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pretty picture: Eupatorium sp.

This came very close to being included in the last roadside flowers post, but I didn't use it because it wasn't exactly a roadside flower. Or at least it's not a roadside flower in the usual way; this one was in Iowa City, along the route I used to walk to work, not out in the country minding its own business like they usually are.


The main reason it didn't get included in that last post, though, was because the last post was already plenty long and I didn't want to make it even longer.

I'm not sure on the ID; I'm pretty sure it's a Eupatorium, and I was pretty sure it was E. rugosum, too, until I looked at the illustration of this plant in Wicked Plants. The pictures at davesgarden.com look like this plant, but the illustration for WP has leaves which are a lot narrower.


If it is E. rugosum (Wikipedia claims E. rugosum has been renamed Ageratina altissima, by the way; I have no idea whether this is to be taken seriously), I'm surprised that it can be found in Iowa City, and more surprised to find it growing spontaneously: this was just in a bunch of other weeds along a drainage creek. The way Amy Stewart makes it sound in the book, people put a lot of work into trying to eradicate this plant, because it caused "milk sickness" (the plant poisons cattle that feed on it, and the poison is excreted in the milk, in sufficient quantity to poison humans who drink the milk; Abraham Lincoln's mother is thought to have died this way). If it's popping up in the middle of town, though, either the eradication was kind of half-assed, or it's just really prolific and weedy. Or both.


7 comments:

Frances said...

This is a plant that is everywhere here too, in the midst of a huge dairy industry dependent on local farmers with small herds of cattle. I didn't realize about the poison milk aspect, maybe pastuerization takes care of that problem? Obviously I haven't read the book. We leave a couple of these to grow to maturity in the garden for fall interest and the pollinators adore it. It gets quite large and is a good mate for the tall asters and goldenrod also naturally occuring in my garden.
Frances

Sunita said...

Oh, is that what it's called? Its a nuisance of a weed here in India. One thing in its favour though ... the butterflies love it!

Claude said...

I'm learning to love the roadside flowers, or weeds, or whatever you call them... This one I'm not familiar with though. Maybe it just isn't common here in Texas.

Several plants have been named in connection to the Milk Fever that took Mrs. Lincoln... including Datura stramonium. They'll probably never track down the exact cause, but it is an interesting debate.

BTW - My Stapeia gigantea bloomed, I posted a pic on my blog...

Diane said...

One of these started growing in my garden this year and I let it live so I could ID it. It's a really nice-looking plant and since it's in the back of garden I don't worry about the dog browsing on it. I may be really sorry I left it (am already starting to regret the pokeweed) but for now, it's pretty and has a fun back story.

lynn'sgarden said...

This is ALL OVER my yard! It'll thrive in dense shade (under pine trees) and full sun. I've always thought the foliage/stem to be eupatorium-ish but the blooms make me think aster! In any case, they make nice filler flowers for arrangements.

Don said...

I've grown Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'---which has dark purplish leaves---and found it intolerably weedy (by seed). I see it in all the garden centers in Massachusetts. I suspect your ID is correct.

James Golden said...

I liked the fall color of this plant, which grows wild at my house in the woods, but discovered it's a prolific self-seeder. I've been trying to pull it all out for two years, and I've almost gotten it all. It formed great "clouds" of white in past years, but little did I know it was akin to the Blob. It IS Eupatorium rugosum (Ageratinum altissimum sp?).