By Joseph Mooney
Native plant of the week: Missouri ironweed
Each week we feature a plant that’s native to the continental United States. This week’s plant is Missouri ironweed, Vernonia missurica.
That tall plant crowned with royal-purple flowers glowing in the late-summer sun is Missouri ironweed, Vernonia missurica. It’s native to the central U.S. and Michigan, hardy in zones 4-9. Missouri ironweed likes average to wet conditions but can grow in a range of soils.
Most of the visual action and eye appeal takes place at the tops of the plants where the flowers form. Nevertheless, this is an attractive plant, stately and growing taller in wetter conditions. And it attracts a lot of late-summer pollinators such as monarchs, swallowtails, and sulfurs along with native bees and flies. It’s also the food plant for several Lepidoptera, including the beautiful and intricately patterned parthenice tiger moth (Grammia parthenice; see photo).