IRONWEED FLAT TOP
(Vernonia Noveboracensis) Thistle family.
Flower-head - Composite of tubular florets only, intense
reddish-purple thistle-like heads, borne on short, branched
peduncles and forming broad, flat clusters; bracts of involucre,
brownish purple, tipped with awl-shaped bristles. Stem: 3 to 9
ft. high, rough or hairy, branched.
Leaves: Alternate, narrowly
oblong or lanceolate, saw-edged, 3 to 10 in. long, rough.
Preferred Habitat - Moist soil, meadows, fields.
Flowering Season - July-September.
Distribution - Massachusetts to Georgia, and westward to the
Emerson says a weed is a plant whose virtues we have not yet
discovered; but surely it is no small virtue in the iron-weed to
brighten the roadsides and low meadows throughout the summer with
bright clusters of bloom. When it is on the wane, the asters, for
which it is sometimes mistaken, begin to appear, but an instant's
comparison shows the difference between the two flowers. After
noting the yellow disk in the center of an aster, it is not
likely the iron-weed's thistle-like head of ray florets only will
ever again be confused with it. Another rank-growing neighbor
with which it has been confounded by the novice is the Joe Pye
weed, a far paler, pinkish flower.
To each tiny floret, secreting nectar in its tube, many insects,
attracted by the bright color of the iron-weed standing high
above surrounding vegetation, come to feast. Long-lipped bees and
flies rest awhile for refreshment, but butterflies of many
beautiful kinds are by far the most abundant visitors. Pollen
carried out by the long, hairy styles as they extend to maturity
must attach itself to their tongues. The tiger swallow-tail
butterfly appears to have a special preference for this flower.
COMMON or SCALY BLAZING STAR; COLIC-ROOT; RATTLESNAKE MASTER;
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