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Vernonia arkansana

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Kemper Code:  B905

Common Name: ironweed
Zone: 5 to 8
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Missouri Native: Yes
Native Range: South-central United States
Height: 4 to 6 feet
Spread: 3 to 4 feet
Bloom Time: August - September  
Bloom Color: Pink-purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low

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Plant Culture and Characteristics

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  Uses:       Wildlife:   Flowers:   Leaves:   Fruit:
Hedge Suitable as annual Attracts birds Has showy flowers Leaves colorful Has showy fruit
Shade tree Culinary herb Attracts Has fragrant flowers Leaves fragrant Fruit edible
Street tree Vegetable   hummingbirds Flowers not showy Good fall color   Other:
Flowering tree Water garden plant Attracts Good cut flower Evergreen Winter interest
Gr. cover (<1') Will naturalize   butterflies Good dried flower     Thorns or spines

General Culture:

Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun. In the wild, it is seen growing in moist to wet areas along streams and sloughs as well as in drier glade and prairie areas. Plants generally grow taller in moist soils. Overall plant height may be reduced by cutting back stems in late spring. Easily grown from seed. Remove flower heads before seed develops to avoid any unwanted self-seeding. This species of ironweed tends to hybridize with some other native ironweeds, which can sometimes complicate plant identification.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

This ironweed (sometimes commonly called curlytop ironweed) is native from Illinois to Kansas south to Arkansas and Oklahoma. In Missouri, it typically occurs in gravel and sand bars along streams, slough margins, wet meadows, thickets, open woods, prairies and glades primarily in the Ozark region of the state (Steyermark). This plant is noted for its narrow, willow-like leaves, large flowering heads and thread-like tips on the involucral bracts. It is an upright perennial that typically grows on stiff, leafy, nearly glabrous stems which grow to 4-6’ tall in cultivation, but to as much as 10’ tall in the wild. Linear to linear-lanceolate leaves (to 7” long) are usually glabrous. Composite flowers, each with fluffy, pink-purple disks (rays absent), bloom in loose, corymbose cymes from late summer into fall. Flowers give way to rusty seed clusters. The source of the common name for vernonias has been varyingly attributed to certain “iron-like” plant qualities including tough stems, rusty-tinged fading flowers and rusty colored seeds. Notwithstanding its toughness, the plant is, with the exception of its attractive flowers, a somewhat unexceptional ornamental. Genus name honors English botanist, William Vernon, who collected plants in America in the late 1600s. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies. The within species is synonymous with and formerly known as V. crinita.


No serious insect of disease problems.


Naturalize in cottage gardens, wildflower meadows, prairies or native plant gardens. Also effective as a background plant for borders. Good for areas with moist soils.

© Missouri Botanical Garden, 2001-2011

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