Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Joe-Pye Weed in Bloom

Joe-Pye weed is a late summer blooming wildflower found in damp ground along the edges of streams, ditches, and forest margins. I came across a patch of Joe-Pye weed in bloom in a marsh adjacent to a pond on our farm while watching a flock of gadwalls, gray, early-migrating ducks. Thin flocks of gadwalls, American wigeons, wood ducks, and green-winged teal can be seen in the Mid-South in September. The colorful Joe-Pye weed, a member of the important family of bee plants, the composites, often stands over eight feet in height. The composites, or sunflowers, are significant producers of nectar and pollen. Legends attribute the name of various species to a New England colonial-era Native American medicinal healer named Joe Pye. It is said that he treated conditions such as diarrhea, typhus, kidney stones, and fevers with the plants which now carry his name. One species of Joe-Pye weed, boneset, is thought to benefit in setting broken bones. This white-flowered plant is a major producer of nectar for late-season honey at times. Another Joe-Pye species with white flowers is white snakeroot, a poisonous plant. The flowering plants benefit from pollination by bees, and many serve as a source of medicine for humans and animals.

Late summer is an important time for beekeepers to observe the condition of their bee hives. In August, Chris Harrell noticed a change in activity in his Eastern North Carolina hive. Brood production had stopped. He found a number of queen cells that had been torn down from the sides. It appeared that the colony had superseded itself, and a virgin queen had killed the other developing queens. In his region, August may be the last month that a queen may successfully mate. Chris found young brood in September; it appears that the colony was successful in replacing its queen. He even found a young queen running rapidly across the surface of the combs. Virgin queens and young queens are often quite shy.

1 comment:

  1. Carol Shuh identifies this plant as another composite wildflower, New York ironweed, by the arrangement of leaves and the shape of the flower head. Joe-Pye weed leaves form swirls, and the flower head is more globular and rounded. Both plants are native to North America, of similar size, and found in moist ground. Internet searches reveal photos of both plants. I agree with Carol’s identification. Thank you.