Friday, June 26, 2020

What’s in a name: Joe Pye weed

Purple weed named Joe Pye June 22-28 is National Pollinator Week! To celebrate, we’re highlighting Joe Pye weeds (Eutrochium spp.), native essentials for any pollinator garden. There are several Joe Pye weed species. All have tall leafy stems with flat or rounded heads of small but bountiful shadowy pink flowers. Joe Pye weeds are an attractive garden choice not just because of their popularity with bees and butterflies, but also because of their hardiness. These tough perennial flowers can withstand a wide range of conditions including high summer temperatures and a lack of water. In ideal conditions, they do prefer slightly moist soils, and in the wild, you can often find them growing in wetlands. The flowers bloom in late summer when many other flowers begin to wane.

Have you ever wondered who Joe Pye was? According to legend, Joe Pye was a Native American herbalist who used a local plant to cure a variety of illnesses including typhoid fever. For years, it was unknown if Joe Pye was a real person or a botanical myth until research confirmed the plant’s name originated from the nickname of Joseph Shauquethqueat, a Mohican chief who lived in Massachusetts and New York in the 18th and early 19th centuries (Pearce, Richard B and Pringle, James S. (2017). Joe Pye, Joe Pye’s Law, and Joe-Pye-Weed: The History and Eponymy of the Common Name Joe-Pye-Weed for Eutrochium Species (Asteraceae), The Great Lakes Botanist, 56(3-4):177-200.). 

Celebrate National Pollinator Week by adding some native plants to your backyard or container garden. We’ve got you covered for some ideas to start with – check out our website for a list of native suggestions (PDF).

Photo by Danielle Brigida, Flickr

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

2 Responses

  1. Wally Elton says:

    Takes me a while to get to things sometimes, but I appreciate articles like this!

  2. From a reader: I hoped that you might appreciate two corrections. First, Joe “Pye” was not a Native American (which implies ethnic-group status in “America” – Japanese American, Italian American, Irish American etc.). Instead, he belonged
    to a sovereign nation. Indian people use the term “Indian” as an adjective. He belonged to a sovereign nation or a sovereign Indian nation, but he was not American.

    Second, he was Mahican, not Mohegan. That is a confusion that trips up many people – and while the language was the same (Algonqian) and the name means the same (wolf), they were in two separate geographical locations. Related nations,
    but not quite the same. If you’d like an Am. source on the matter, you can find the info in Volume 5 of the Smithsonian’s Handbook of American Indians which gives historical documentary souces. For an Ind. source, you have to ask the old people (many now passed on) who knew the distinction, which was an important one.

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