The first time I remember seeing ironweed was on a walk with my dad in the Adirondacks. We were walking near what was locally known as the Old Iron Bridge and since he liked to joke he mentioned something about the plant liking to eat iron. I was very young, and for years after whenever we hiked there, I imagined the roots of the plant silently chewing away at the bridge.
There are a number of theories on the origin of its name. One of the most reasonable explanations is the stems are like iron, standing straight over the month or so of bloom in spite of the height and weight of the blossoms, even with wind and rain. Unlike most of my taller plants, these never slouch. I believe stakes should be reserved for vampires, so my garden can politely be called naturalistic when my other tall flowers inevitably become more horizontal than vertical as the season goes on. It’s refreshing to have a tough plant that attracts many pollinators and always keeps its form.
I have dozens of these plants in my yard, growing bigger and more profuse every year. They are magnets for pollinators, attracting bees, wasps, and butterflies in late summer. They grow in abundance in the swampy area right next to the creek, enjoying this wet habitat. Hopefully they are not silently creeping toward my own bridge with intentions of devouring it.