In accordance with Western Carolina University’s policies in response to Covid-19, Highlands Biological Station is currently closed to the public with the exception of the Botanical Garden trails, but does remain open to researchers and faculty on a limited basis; please contact the HBS office (828-526-2602) for information on reservations, rates, and Covid-19 policies.  We currently plan to offer our field courses, workshops, Grant-in-Aid program, and HBS Nature Center programs in summer 2021, with Covid-19 safety protocols in place (TBA).​ Please bear in mind, however, that University policy and HBS program plans are subject to change in light of developments with the pandemic this winter and spring, and those interested in attending HBS courses or programs or utilizing HBS facilities in spring or summer 2021 should check the HBS website regularly for updates.

Eutrochium fistulosum

Eutrochium fistulosum

Hollowstem Joe-Pye weed


Sunflower Family

A signal to all that the dog days of summer are upon us is when the first flowering Joe-Pye weed is spotted. It’s hard to miss, as this plant can reach 7 feet in height and are topped by a broad, dome-shaped panicle of pinkish flowers. The flowers are good nectar and pollen producers, and are usually swarming with all sorts of insects — butterflies, beetles, wasps, flies. This hardy perennial is a lover of moist soils in open, sunny spots. 


Look closely at the leaf whorls and you will notice that each one is offset slightly relative to the ones above and below — a growth strategy that minimizes leaf shading and maximizes photosynthesis.  Unlike the solid stems of most Joe-Pye Weeds, this species is readily identified by its hollow stem. Joe-Pye Weeds putatively take their name from a 19th century traveling medicine man, who promoted use of the roots of the plant to induce sweating in typhus fever. Historically, the leaves were used by Indigenous Americans to brew a diuretic tea.