Posts Tagged ‘Boneset’


The weather was beautiful this morning, and I decided to take a little stroll through the horses’ field to see what is blooming. The horses were busy with their usual morning activity, standing in their shelter. But donkeys are a curious lot, and Teddy is a very curious donkey. He left his buddies and followed me out into the field, interested in seeing what I was up to. And of course, where there are humans, there may be carrots, you never know.

With Teddy leading the way, the others soon followed. Here they are as seen through Teddy’s ears. Did you ever in your life see a more beautiful set of ears?


The horses do most of their grazing at night, when the heat of the day is past and the hordes of biting insects that plague them are diminished. They spend much of their day in their shelter, staying out of the sun and avoiding the bugs to the extent that that is possible.

Diva’s not so curious as a donkey, but she is a friendly, companionable horse, and was happy to accompany us. But where is Czarina?


Czarina had no interest in my activities. She was for returning to the shelter, but she just couldn’t bring herself to leave her friends. Horses have strong herd instincts and only a few can bear to be left behind when the herd moves on, no matter how much they’d rather not go.


The meadow is dominated through August by goldenrod and Joe Pye weed, but now those are giving way to the white flower clusters of boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). You can read more about boneset here.


The boneset comes up to Diva’s belly but it nearly hides Louis. On more than one occasion, I haven’t been able to locate the donkey boys and have had a minute of panic, wondering if they have escaped, before one raises his head and a pair of long ears appear above the plants.


After a while, everyone lost interest in my walk and left me to carry on alone.


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The garden is beginning to wind down from the height of its July glory into its autumnal display. It is still attracting plenty of visitors. When I walked through the garden this weekend, it was alive with butterflies. The summer drought has made for a difficult growing season, but it seems to have been good for butterflies. There were white Cabbage butterflies and some Monarchs and Viceroys, but mostly there were Painted Ladies. Every flower was decorated with one of these beauties and I couldn’t resist photographing a sampling to share here.


Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) are cosmopolitans. They can be found across the continent and throughout much of the world. Their huge range includes Europe, Asia and Africa as well as North America.


They are not winter-hardy, and most northern residents perish. In the spring, Painted Ladies from southern areas and Mexico fly north on warm spring breezes and recolonize much of North America by summer.


Painted Ladies nectar at a wide variety of plants, but particularly enjoy thisles. They are also adaptable in their choice of host plants for young caterpillars.


Here is a selection of photographs of Painted Ladies visiting Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), Persicaria polymorpha, Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstonne”, hydrangea, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum, and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium spp).






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I’m sorry that the photograph, above, can’t convey to you the serenity of standing at the edge of the August meadow. It’s peaceful and calm, although not quiet, really. The late summer air is filled with the cricks of crickets, the hum of cicadas from the trees lining the field, the buzz of bees. At first, the meadow looks very still, but as you stand and watch, you begin to see activity. At least a dozen big darner dragonflies were zipping across the tops of nearby flower heads. Butterflies suddenly lift into the air and are visible for a few seconds until they drop down and resettle on the next flower. Grasshoppers leap and shine like tiny bits of silver as the sun catches their wings.

A few plants dominate the meadow. The yellow is mostly goldenrod of several species, probably Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), above, and lance-leaved goldenrod (S. graminifolia) below.

Lance-leaved goldenrod with Yellow-collared Scape Moth

The Joe Pye Weed is past its peak and the flower heads are fading. Its pale purple flowers are giving way to the white flowers of a Eupatorium relative, commonly called Thoroughwort or Boneset (E. perfoliatum).

There are a few different stories as to how this plant came by the name boneset. One is that the leaves were used in the setting of broken bones, wrapped around the fracture with splints and bandages. Another version holds that boneset is so named because it was used to treat dengue fever (a viral disease once known as breakbone fever), which causes severe joint pain.

A third version says that the name reflects the use of the plant to fight the achy-bone feeling of colds and flu. Certainly boneset tea was a common home remedy for aches and pains and general malaise in many pioneer and native homes. The bitter tea induces sweating and was purported to promote bone healing.

Boneset has many flat-topped clusters of dull white flowers. The flowers consist of multiple insect-pollinated bisexual florets, with flower heads usually containing fifteen to twenty florets. They secrete abundant nectar and are popular with the pollinator crowd. Boneset prefers damp ground and is often found with Joe Pye weed and jewelweed.

The scientific species name perfoliatum, or perforated foliage, refers to the leaves, which are very distinctive. The leaves grow in pairs and at right-angles to the set of leaves below and above them. Each pair of leaves join at the base, with the stem perforating them. The common name thoroughwort also refers to the leaves, thorough being an old form of through (as in thoroughfare) and wort meaning flower.

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