The Return of the Prodigal Ironweed

Has something like this ever happened to you? I planted some ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata) in the fall of 2010. The following spring there is no sign of it. I assume they didn’t make it through the winter. All through 2011 ironweed seemed as absent from my garden as coconut palms.

Fast forward to this summer. I saw some tall weeds nestled among the other plants. Are they really weeds? I decide to let them get a little bigger to see what they turn into. A couple weeks later, I’m still not sure. I reach to pull them out … but then … Could it be? Yes, my ironweed had returned!

What was it doing, where had it been hiding all this time? Perhaps last year it broke dormancy late and never put on much top growth because it was putting down roots. It certainly didn’t bloom – then the torch of red-purple flowers would have been unmistakable. It’s possible that I mistook it for some stems of blue culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Temptation’). The flowers of these two species are completely different, but otherwise the plants have a vague similarity.

Blue Culver’s Root

In any case, I am very pleased my ironweed has been found again. This plant blooms in a cluster on top of an upright 4-6′ stalk. Bloom time is  in late summer and fall.  I promise to post photos when they bloom.

2 Comments on “The Return of the Prodigal Ironweed

  1. Jason, I have had this experience over and over again; and it has led me to the (perhaps too convenient) conclusion that procrastination is a virtue in gardeners. If I had taken out my Hemerocallis ‘Silver Ice’ the year it didn’t put in an appearance and put something else in its place, I wouldn’t be enjoying its pale pink blooms this month. And I wouldn’t have those two intertwined geraniums if the one I had given up for dead hadn’t resurrected itself.

  2. I tend to be a too quick to give up on a plant and pull it out or assume it’s a goner. Of course, that gives me the excuse to try something new. And then there are instances of apparent plant resurrection.

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