COMPOSITE FAMILY - Compositae: Boneset; Common Thorough wort; Agueweed; Indian Sage
Flower-heads--Composite, the numerous, small, dull, white heads of tubular florets only, crowded in a scaly involucre and borne in spreading, flat-topped terminal cymes. Stem: Stout, tall, branching above, hairy, leafy. Leaves: Opposite, often united at their bases, or clasping, lance-shaped, saw-edged, wrinkled.
Preferred Habitat--Wet ground, low meadows, roadsides.
Distribution--From the Gulf states north to Nebraska, Manitoba, and New Brunswick.
Frequently, in just such situations as its sister the Joe-Pye Weed selects, and with similar intent, the boneset spreads its soft, leaden-white bloom; but it will be noticed that the butterflies, which love color, especially deep pinks and magenta, let this plant alone, whereas beetles, that do not find the butterfly's favorite, fragrant Joe-Pye Weed at all to their liking, prefer these dull, odorous flowers. Many flies, wasps, and bees also, get generous entertainment in these tiny florets, where they feast with the minimum loss of time, each head in a cluster containing, as it does, from ten to sixteen restaurants. An ant crawling up the stem is usually discouraged by its hairs long before reaching the sweets. Sometimes the stem appears to run through the centre of one large leaf that is kinky in the middle and taper-pointed at both ends, rather than between a pair of leaves.
An old-fashioned illness known as break-bone fever--doubtless paralleled to-day by the grippe--once had its terrors for a patient increased a hundredfold by the certainty he felt of taking nauseous doses of boneset tea, administered by zealous old women outside the "regular practice." Children who had to have their noses held before they would--or, indeed, could--swallow the decoction, cheerfully munched boneset taffy instead.