Eutrochium purpureum (Sweet Scented Joe Pye Weed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Sweet Joe-Pye Weed
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; open woods, woodland edges, thickets, wet meadows, ravines
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:4 to 6 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: flat Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Loose branching rounded clusters made up of dozens to hundreds of very pale pink to purplish flower heads. A head is made up of about 6 petal-less disk flowers, each with 2 long stringy styles and 5 tiny lobes. The bracts are green to purplish and in 2 layers, the outer ones usually hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are whorled in groups of 3 to 5, most often 4. Leaves are up to 10 inches long, 1 to 4 inches wide, coarsely toothed and pointed on both ends with short stalks, and are variously hairy.

[photo of leaf node] Stems are mostly green, rarely purple tinged, but usually dark purple at the leaf nodes and flower stalk nodes. The lower stem is hairless; the upper stem may be covered in glandular hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] The flower heads turn into a mass of brown seed, each with a tuft of light brown hair to carry them off in the wind.

[photo of seed] Seeds are slender, 4 to 5 millimeters long, 5-sided.


Very similar species is Spotted Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), which has solid purple or purple spotted stems, usually a flatter flower cluster and a preference for full sun, where Sweet Scented Joe Pye Weed prefers part shade. Sweet Scented Joe Pye Weed often goes by Latin name Eupatorium purpureum but the accepted name in Minnesota is Eutrochium purpureum. There are 2 varieties in Minnesota, var. purpureum is mostly hairless on the underside of the leaf except along the veins; var. holzingeri is densely hairy on the underside surface.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek and Lilydale Parks, St. Paul. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Lilydale Regional Park, St. Paul


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Starr - Minneapolis
on: 2015-04-19 11:29:54

I'd wondered what these pretty wildflowers were. When they emerged in spring I thought they were creeping bellflower due to the leaf shape. But as they got bigger the leaves are clearly shinier and more elongated. They are pretty tall and tower over my garden in the back with cloudlike plumes of pretty flowers.

Posted by: Judie Anderson - Plymouth
on: 2018-07-11 16:22:56

When is the best time to relocate Joe Pye Weed? How large is the root system? My plants are over 6 feet tall.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-07-11 19:31:34

Best to move plants when they're dormant.

Posted by: Nancy - Isanti County
on: 2019-09-06 08:26:28

I just met this plant for the first time. Along a wet woods edge. I like the whorled leaves along the stem.

Posted by: Nancy Jo Austin - Hugo
on: 2020-07-28 23:30:28

My son asked me to weed his flower bed in Woodbury where he is renting a condo. It consisted of Sweet Joe Pye weed and nettles surrounded by dead nettles (henbit), grasses, and common violets. Growing in the cracks of his sidewalk and up his neighbor's fence was Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet Nightshade). No idea what he wanted so I half filled his compost container with nettles and nightshade. I'll get the henbit and random grasses next time.

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