Tall Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea)

Tall ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) is one of the few non-yellow flowering wildflowers blooming right now here in Tennessee. This extremely tall and purple member of the aster family can be seen throughout roadsides and fields in much of the country during the late summer or early fall. It stands anywhere from 3 feet up to 8 feet tall and occasionally can reach 10 feet. It is definitely aptly named with the “Tall” adjective!

I’ve noticed that this purple flowering native perennial gets along nicely with it’s buddy goldenrod (Solidago). The purple and gold in the fields are putting on quite a show right now. Here is the ironweed in its natural habitat, a field! Near it are several goldenrod plants peaking up from the brush. While they aren’t quite in bloom together in this picture I can assure you that that are in bloom at the same time in many places here in Tennessee. These pictures were taken in Mt. Juliet, TN.

Here’s a close-up of our purple flowering friend. Tall ironweed looks great when examined closer and even has me considering adding a plant to our garden. The butterflies seem to really enjoy it. I suspect that some pruning during its growth cycle would encourage a bushier and somewhat smaller appearance that might work well in the garden. It’s worth a shot!

22 Replies to “Tall Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea)”

  1. What a great plant. I love how well it goes with the goldenrod. We have both blooming now, here in PA as well.

  2. I always thought this was an aster until Cindy posted a picture on her blog and Gail identified it. Shows how little I know and how much I rely on bloggers to share their knowledge so I can learn! Very pretty. I need some. Gerianne has it and I am hoping she will share one of these days when it is big enough.

  3. I love the combination of purple & yellow. I was considering adding this to my garden too until someone said it was quite invasive.

  4. I have always wanted to add ironweed to the garden but, as yet, only admired it from afar.

  5. I would love to grow this – I like that color.

  6. I remember it well from the years I lived in TN and AL. Unfortunately it doesn’t grow well here.

    I like your idea of posting fall colors. I’ll have to start snapping some pix, it’s almost time.

  7. Cindy,

    They are great aren’t they! Nature sure gives us lots of color to look at.

  8. Tina,

    I can see why you thought it was an aster. The blooms are very similar. The color also matches some asters.

  9. PG,

    I suppose it could be invasive but I think it could be easily controlled. In the fields there are moderate amounts of ironweed, it doesn’t seem to take over.

  10. Mother Nature,

    It is spectacular right now in the fields. I know of one plant in our little bit of woods behind us that I could move, but other than that all the plants I’ve seen are out in other people’s fields.

  11. Phillip,

    It is a nice color. I think most of my garden is in shades of purple. The tall ironweed would fit in well here.

  12. R&L,

    Too bad it doesn't do well up there! It is brightening up the pastures down here. Definitely go out and post your fall pictures! I hope to get participants from all regions of the country.

  13. Thanks for the info Dave! I love purple in the garden and this looks like a great plant.

  14. The ironweed is blooming here, too. And it’s aptly named! Ever try to snap off a flower head? Oh myyyyyy!!!! Very tough stems. I’ve considered planting some in my garden, too, since it provides late season color, and the color is very rich.

  15. I wouldn’t mind if it invaded me a bit. It is beautiful and I love tall plants.

    I love that beautiuful pic of the flower with the little orange butterfly. It just popped out when I clicked on it. It is just so pretty.

  16. I love this native Dave, it’s a wonderful plant! I have it growing in the wilder parts of the garden! Thanks, for show casing this beauty!


  17. Beautiful wild flowers Dave. I really like the color of the Iron wood. I wouldn't mind that color in my garden. Purple & yellow great together. I'm really enjoying these pics of the Fall colors.

  18. Kylee,

    I’ve never tried picking the flowers although if I do I’ll bring pruners thanks to your warning! They would make a nice addition to a flower arrangement.

  19. Eve,

    I thought that the contrast with the butterfly and the flowers was neat also. Like you I wouldn’t mind it invading!

  20. Gail,

    It is a nice native!

  21. Lola,

    I agree purple and gold do go well together! The ironweed might look great behind some yellow mums. The timing would be about tight too!

  22. I like ironweed. It is easily controlled so, its not really invasive. In fact, it tends to be taken over by horseweed which produces a very nice white flower, but can cause alergies. I don't seem to be affected by it. I like the way it looks in bunches, but I would prefer ironweed. But the horseweed tends to limit its number. Horseweed and ironweed produce flowers at different times, so I like them both. But ironweed is by far prettier. When I get an ironweed plant, I cut weeds away from its base or it can be crowded out.

    I wish my fields were all ironweed. It isn't easily spread. You have to make sure other weeds are pulled around it. Horseweed will crowd it out.

    tom e

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