Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade
Soil moisture: Medium to wet
Flowering period: July to September
Host plant for 32 caterpillar species
Common boneset’s downcurved, opposing leaves fuse with one another where they meet the stem, creating a graceful series of crisscrossing arches along the plant’s central stalk. This pollinator favorite offers more to the garden than compelling architecture, however, serving as a valuable late summer nutritional source for a wide range of pollinators. Short-tongued bees, flies, and wasps that are unable to obtain nectar from flowers with long, tubular corollas (e.g., wild bergamot) are especially abundant on common boneset’s clusters of small white blooms. As predators of insects that can damage crops and food gardens, wasps* offer an important alternative to insecticides as a form of pest management. Due in part to its importance to wasps, common boneset is recognized by the Xerces Society for supporting biological pest control. Other frequent visitors to common boneset include long-tongued pollinators like moths, bumblebees, and butterflies, especially monarchs.
Growing best in conditions of full sun and wet to moderate soil moisture, common boneset is native to wet meadows and the margins of ponds and other water bodies across NE Ohio. Common boneset spreads via rhizomes to form small, tight colonies and therefore often displays a bushy appearance several years after planting.
*Wasps do not behave aggressively towards humans when foraging for nectar. Instances of aggression are primarily limited to certain wasps (social wasps) that are defending their nest against a perceived threat.
Photo by Superior National Park.