Easy-to-maintain giant ironweed provides nectar for butterflies, bees

Vernonia gigantea, giant (or tall) ironweed, is a native herbaceous perennial wildflower in the Asteraceae family. Other members of this family are daisies, sunflowers, lettuce, artichokes, dahlias, chamomile and sage, to name a few.

The genus name, Vernonia, is in honor of an English botanist, William Vernon, who did fieldwork in North America. The species name, gigantea, is Latin and means “of giants.” The common name, ironweed, refers to the toughness of the stem. Another reason for the name of ironweed is that its flowers turn a rusty color as they age.

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The giant ironweed has been known to grow up to 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide; however, it usually grows 3 to 5 feet tall. It grows taller in moist soil, and plant height can be reduced by cutting back stems in the late spring. The stem is rigid, but smooth.

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