COMPOSITE FAMILY - Compositae: Iron-weed; Flat Top
Flower-head--Composite of tubular florets only, intense reddish-purple thistle-like heads, borne on short, branched peduncles and forming broad, flat clusters; bracts of involucre, brownish purple, tipped with awl-shaped bristles. Stem: 3 to 9 ft. high, rough or hairy, branched. Leaves: Alternate, narrowly oblong or lanceolate, saw-edged, 3 to 10 in. long, rough.
Preferred Habitat--Moist soil, meadows, fields.
Distribution--Massachusetts to Georgia, and westward to the Mississippi.
Emerson says a weed is a plant whose virtues we have not yet discovered; but surely it is no small virtue in the iron-weed to brighten the roadsides and low meadows throughout the summer with bright clusters of bloom. When it is on the wane, the asters, for which it is sometimes mistaken, begin to appear, but an instant's comparison shows the difference between the two flowers. After noting the yellow disk in the centre of an aster, it is not likely the iron-weed's thistle-like head of ray florets only will ever again be confused with it. Another rank-growing neighbor with which it has been comfounded by the novice is the Joe-Pye Weed, a far paler, old-rose colored flower, as one who does not meet them both afield may see on comparing the colored plates in this book.