Simply The Best Natives-Common Boneset

DSCN1687 On some winter days when the sky and landscape are achromatic, I find the garden at its best.  Everything is latent; there is an undertow to the garden, and I sense that below my feet is the whole of summer.

Mirabel Osler


As February comes to a close, the promise of spring is even sweeter.  With March just around the corner and the light of day lingering longer, I can almost see my garden start to bloom.  This is the year of study in my garden and I am observing the gardens, the critters and profiling some of my favorite plants especially the native ones. obj1512geo823pg2p10 For these native plant profiles, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme.

I am also joining forces with a local native plant nursery I really like, Amanda’s Garden, to purchase plants for my gardens, like the one I profiled in this post.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.  To get all the latest goings on at the nursery, like Amanda’s Garden Native Perennial Nursery page on Facebook.


This time I am again profiling a late blooming native, Common Boneset or Eupatorium perfoliatum part of the Aster family (Asteraceae).  I planted one plant 2 years ago and it grew quickly and flowered.  I divided the first plant, and had a second plant grow this year.  Pretty good for a new perennial.

Boneset has tiny, fragrant white flowers in fuzzy clusters at the top of  3-6 ft. hairy stems.  The dark green pairs of leaves curl from the stems.  Also known as Thoroughwort, this plant is closely related to Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum).



Growing Conditions

Boneset blooms in late summer to early fall for about 1-2 months.  It easily forms colonies if planted in sun to part sunIMG_3255 and wet to moist conditions.  The root system produces many rhizomes that can be divided.  As it can withstand flooded areas for short periods, I may need to consider planting this in the back areas and rain gardens.

The plant has few pests or disease issues and even likes sandy or clay soil as long as it is moist.  Propagation from divisions and cuttings in spring and fall is more successful than sowing seed.  To promote bushier growth, cut back the plant in early spring as it grows. 



Benefits to Wildlife

Many moth species use Boneset as a host plant, but butterflies do not.  However, it is a nectar source for butterflies in late summer to early fall.

IMG_3190The flowers attract many kinds of insects:  bees, flies, wasps and beetles.  Many unusual flies and wasps frequent the flowers because it provides easy access to the nectar.  The small seeds do not attract many, if any birds, although I will have to watch in the future to see if any of the birds eat the seed.  Also deer, rabbits and other mammals do not seem to eat these plants.



Where Are They Found

Boneset is a commonly found throughout the Eastern United States and Canada, from Nova Scotia to Florida, and Louisiana/Texas through North Dakota.

Habitats include meadows, pond edges, moist shade, edges of swamps, flooded forest openings, marshes, bogs and roadside ditches. 




Eupatorium perfoliatum is still used in herbal medicine for fever and colds by drying leaves and making them into a IMG_3252tea.  Some studies show the plant has possible anti-inflammatory effects and has been used to treat gout.

Boneset is said to be one of the best herbal remedies for flu, but caution is advised when using it since it can be poisonous to humans and livestock.



Folklore and Tales

DSCN1688Boneset was one of the most widely used plants for medicinal purposes especially in the 19th century.  At one point it was included in most medical herb gardens to use in folk medicine.  Once aspirin came into use, boneset was no longer used for home remedies.

Native tribes called it “feverwort” or “sweating-plant”, and introduced it to American colonists as a way to break fevers.

The look of the leaves growing around the stem led to an old superstition that the plant could help mend broken bones like bandages wrapped around splints.  The common name Boneset apparently comes from the plant’s use in treating an 18th century influenza called ‘break bone fever’.

In the Language of Flowers, Boneset is said to stand for gratitude.  I am sure many were and still are grateful for this important medical plant.


Do you grow this plant or have you seen it in the wild?  Do you plan to plant any unusual native plants this year?



I wanted to share a wonderful blog and blogger who in her words is working:Shawna-Coronado-and-The-Pollinator-Painted-Fence

 to inspire positive community unity and beautiful art instead of displaying hate or negativity in our urban neighborhoods.

Shawna Coronado is a well known author and blogger whose special project, The Graffiti Experimentis an amazing story.  I contributed to Shawna’s efforts and she is sharing the love by posting about those who are supporting her efforts.  I was honored that she has featured my blog this month. I hope you will go visit her blog and be as inspired as I have been.

“You don’t have a garden just for yourself.  You have it to share.”  ~Augusta Carter


Come Join Us:

Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time.  I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether winter or summer or something else.  Share your traditions, holidays, gardens and celebrations in pictures, poetry or words starting March 1st.

And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of autumn here in the North and spring in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.

The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the equinox (around the 20th of March).  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the solstice to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page.  The badges here can be used in your post.   So won’t you join in the celebration!!


Next up on the blog:  Saturday, please join me for my Seasonal Celebrations post.  Monday will be time for another Gardens Eye Journal.  What has been happening in my garden this February?

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.

It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my latest post.

I can also be found blogging once a month at Vision and Verb.  I hope you enjoy my latest post.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.sharethelove

I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

49 Replies to “Simply The Best Natives-Common Boneset”

  1. One of the educational gardens I volunteer in grows this in the pollinator garden so I am so glad you profiled this plant. I learned even more about it from your post. My experience is that it is a vigorous grower and I think it would do well in a meadow site. I am going to add it to my garden this year.

    1. A perfect use for this plant in a pollinator garden Karin. Love that you will be planting Boneset too. Glad you enjoyed the info on the plant!!

    1. Glad you are enjoying my native plants Christina. Spring will be at least another 4-6 weeks away here as we are in throes of another frigid week and more snow.

  2. Although I don’t grow the native boneset, I have several plants of chocolate boneset which I adore because it flowers right into November. One plant is in my butterfly garden and it is a good pollinator plant.

  3. I have two nice clumps of the chocolate-leaf version of this plant, but not the species. Thanks for the reminder that I should add it. And of course, I have its relative, the lavender-flowered Joe-Pye Weed.

  4. I’ve really come to love late summer bloomers. Not your charming boneset, of course — I don’t think it would be happy here! — but other late summer to frost types. I don’t know why they have such a strong appeal.

    Goodness. “Break bone fever” sounds awful!

    I love the idea of an “undertow” in the garden.

    1. I think Stacy that the late bloomers give us hope that our gardens will keep going and going. Doesn’t that name sound awful, “Break bone fever” .

  5. Boneset is one of my favorites Donna. It is also a favorite perch for the tree frogs in my yard. The flat, opposite leaves are idea for them to rest on and I suspect they are also waiting for a tasty insect meal.

    1. Heather I did not know about the tree frogs. I will have to look for them this year. I have seen them once and I just love the cuties.

  6. This is a great native plant. We have a similar native in Texas, Eupatorium havanense, which I grow. It shares many of the same common names with other bonesets so we typically call it Fragrant Mistflower. The fall blooms are wonderfully fragrant and it needs less water than eastern varieties.

  7. Hi Donna, No I don’t grow this Eupatorium but I grow Joe Pye and Chocolate Joe Pye. I can still remember the dozens of bumblebees happily dancing around those flowers. Providing food for our buzzing critters is so gratifying.

    1. I love the image of the pollinators dancing around all the Eupatorium. I need a vision of plants, the garden and pollinators as we just had another foot of snow and we are still in the polar vortex.

  8. Your words are Springtime….thank you:)
    And I love the blossoms,
    especially that blooming fence (kind of takes my breath away
    and makes me want to paint a fence in a big way!)
    I always feel warmer after wandering here,

  9. I like hearing about new plants that I have never seen before, thanks for the very useful information! Not sure if it would be a suitable plant for my garden but I will look it up and check.

  10. I have heard about this plant before — boneset is very known to me — but I can’t remember how I know about it, where I heard about it. I have some native plants which looks exactly like this. Those could be boneset. I need to find out once spring comes and they grow.

    Ah! I need to have that graffiti painted in my garden fence as well :-).

  11. I considered adding Boneset to one special spot in my garden, but I went with Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) instead. They serve similar purposes, but Mistflower seemed better for this particular spot. I’ll have to find a place for Boneset!

  12. I’ve never seen this Eupatorium although I grow several varieties of the purple Joe -Pye weed. Bees love it.
    I think this wildflower meme is a wonderful idea. It is good to see wildflowers around the world and it is great to encourage people to grow their own native plants.

  13. I grow white mist flower, which has several other common names but its Latin is eupatorium coelestinum, or something close to that. It looks the same as your boneset and is very easy to grow. It’s very pretty. 🙂

  14. I love your new look, Donna…so lovely. Our winter has been quite harsh–very cold, icy, snowy. I do love the snow, but I am looking forward to getting in the garden. I love the idea Shawna has come up with…so beautiful.

    1. Michelle, what a delight to see this comment. I am so happy to see you here and hear from you. We are in the throes of our coldest winter in 20 yrs so our spring is going to be delayed I fear. So I am looking forward to the garden work too!!

  15. Hi, I was wondering if i could plant some bone set in the back of my garden
    or would it take over the whole garden? wait for your reply Thanks Wayne

    1. Wayne, as Boneset can spread it would depend on your conditions at the back of your garden. Sun to part sun and wet to moist conditions can make it grow aggressively. Mine has not been aggressive so far, but I would use caution. Drier conditions may make it behave more…hope that helps Wayne.

  16. Hi Donna,

    Last year was our first “successful” year raising monarch caterpillars. Since our garden doesn’t have that many late blooming plants, I was thinking about planting Common Boneset for the monarchs to nectar on before they grab their sombrero’s and head south for the winter (we live in Michigan).

    However, the more I read about Common Boneset, the more confused I am getting. One article said that Common Boneset is a butterfly magnet, while another said that it doesn’t really attract that many butterflies, but it does attract lots of bees, wasps and fly species.

    Not that I’m against gardening for pollinators, but I’m looking for a late blooming plant that butterflies like. Do you find that butterflies are attracted to Common Boneset, or is it just a magnet for smaller pollinators?

    Would I be better served planting stiff goldenrod (solidago rigida) or maybe ironweed (although I hear that can grow quite tall) as a late blooming flower for butterflies. Thanks for any help you can give me.

    1. Brain I have had some butterflies come to the Boneset especially the white admiral butterfly….but not monarchs. I have monarchs flock to late blooming asters and native helianthus for weeks in late summer and early fall. I also have them all over Joe Pye Weed…so there are 3 recommendations for butterfly magnets especially monarchs.

Comments are closed.