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Tall Ironweed (Vernonia altissima) is a member of the Asteraceae or Aster family. Because of its size it also has a second Latin name, Vernonia gigantea, for which it is now becoming better known. The other name for this plant also follows he change to the latin name: Giant Ironweed. This plant is beloved by pollinators, especially the American Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis).
This is a 3- to 10-foot tall perennial which has mostly smooth stems. The leaves are thin, alternate and mostly toothed. They are smooth on the upper surface and hairy underneath, are lance shaped and grow from 4- to 12-inches long and 1- to 3-inches wide, gradually narrowing to the base. The heads are borne in loose open clusters and can have from 13 to 30 purplish disk flowers. There are a series of overlapping bracts at the base of each flower that are less than 0.3-inches high. This is a common wildflower that is usually found in moist or wet woodlands, pastures and meadows. It has a wide range from western New York and eastern New Brunswick south to Florida and west to Texas. It flowers from July to October. The genus name is in honor of William Vernon, an English botanist.