Vernonia noveboracensis (NY Ironweed) is an herbaceous plant with alternate, simple leaves, on stiff, greenish purple stems. The flowers are purple, borne in summer and fall. This species of Ironweed is an herbaceous perennial that spreads mostly by seed. Ironweed’s name is in homage to its stubborn roots: you could build a house on that foundation! Similar to the book by William Kennedy of the same name: Ironweed is a tough and classic native plant.
Vernonia noveboracensis has fuzzy leaves that can appear hairy at times. The texture is phenomenal: highly recommend this plant for a sensory garden atmosphere. NY Ironweed is cousin to Giant Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea.) They look very similar, and yet there are some distinctions. The flowerheads are very similar between both plant species. But the leaves are shaped differently. NY Ironweed’s leaves form a florette shape upon emergence in the spring. Conversely, Giant Ironweed’s leaves emerge straight and strong, ready to grow rapidly towards the sky.
When the conditions of a site are moist and sunny, there’s a good chance that V. noveboracensis will thrive from seed. The optimal timing for spreading seeds is autumn until spring. Although this may be true, sowing seeds can be done any time in the year if scarification needs are met. Seeds can be mixed with compost and topsoil and spread on top of snow. Putting seeds out just before a precipitation event is a very good strategy.