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Upland perennial, this ironweed attracts many pollinators.

Upland perennial, this ironweed attracts many pollinators. USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 15 October 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Vernonia glauca

Upland ironweed

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Vernonia glauca is an upright perennial wildflower with numerous lance shaped leaves.  Foliage is toothed, dark green above and usually glaucous beneath.  In late summer plants are crowned by compact corymbs of royal purple disc florets.  Butterflies and other pollinators flock to the blooms. This species thrives in upland woods or in sunny gardens with average soil.

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  Vernonia glauca occurs from Pennsylvania to Kentucky and south to Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Plants are indigenous to open upland woods, dry or mesic meadows, fields and roadsides.  Plants occur occasionally in alluvial habitats and are more frequent in the Piedmont and Mountains than in the Coastal Plain.

This species is hardy from USDA Zones 6-8.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Vernonia glauca is an upright perennial wildflower with many stem leaves and no basal leaves.

Blades are oval to lance shaped and up to 8” long and 3” across.  Leaves are toothed with pointed tips. Petioles may be short or absent.  The lower leaf surface is usually whitish and glaucous. 

From mid-summer until autumn, plants bear terminal flat topped flower corymbs.  The inflorescences are composed of clusters of deep purple disc florets.

Each floret matures into a soft tan nutlet with a bristly straw colored pappus.

Plants are 3-5’ tall with an average 2-4’ spread.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDSVernonia glauca prefers full to part sun.  Plants require good drainage and thrive in dry, moist or mesic soils and in acid, neutral or alkaline pH.

This species is pest resistant but foliage is occasionally nibbled by deer and other herbivores.

LANDSCAPE USES:  In bloom, Vernonia glauca is a dramatic Accent for a Wildlife Garden or Meadow. Plants are lovely in combination with native grasses and golden fall flowers.  Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants, Cut Flowers or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. This wildflower has Showy Blooms and can be used in Cottage Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings or Perennial Borders.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  Try pairing Vernonia glauca with Aster laevis, Echinacea purpurea, Monarda fistulosa, Liatris spicata, Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, Sorghastrum nutans, Schizachyrium scoparium or Andropogon virginicus.

Vernonia noveborecensis is slightly taller and less drought tolerant but would be a worthy substitute in some situations.

TRIVIA:  Unlike most other members of the Aster Family, Vernonia spp. flowers are composed only of disc florets with no rays.

Flowers attract bevies of butterflies, skippers, moths and native bees.

Vernonia glauca is similar in appearance to Vernonia noveborecensis.  V. glauca is shorter, more tolerant of dry sites and generally has leaves with glaucous or whitish undersides.  The two species also differ in the color of the pappus.  A pappus is the modified calyx that occurs at the base of the floret and persists as an attachment to the seed. The pappus of Vernonia spp. looks like a cluster of bristly hairs.  V. glauca has a straw colored or almost white pappus while V. noveborecensis has a darker brownish or purple pappus.

The generic name honors English botanist William Vernon (1666-1711) who collected and identified plants in Maryland.  The specific epithet refers to the glaucous underside of the leaves.


Height:

3-5 ft

Spread:

2-4 ft

Spacing:

3 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone:

6-8

Bloom Color:

Purple

Vernonia glauca Characteristics

Exposure

  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Attracts Wildlife

  • Butterflies
  • Pollinators

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist to Dry

Attributes

  • Rock Garden
  • Naturalizing
  • Long Blooming
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Cut Flower

Flowering Months

  • September
  • August

Foliage Color

  • Green

Season of Interest (Foliage)

  • Summer
  • Spring

Growth Rate

  • Medium

Juglans nigra Tolerance (Black Walnut)

  • Yes

Interesting Notes:

For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=VEGL


Plants that work well with Vernonia glauca ''

Broom sedge Broom sedge (Andropogon virginicus)
Smooth blue aster Smooth blue aster (Aster laevis)
Purple coneflower Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Wild bergamot Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Blazing star Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
Black-eyed Susan Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida v. fulgida)
Wrinkle-leaf goldenrod Wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)
Indian grass Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
Little bluestem Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Substitutions for Vernonia glauca

New York ironweed New York ironweed (Vernonia noveborecensis)