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Common boneset is a tall perennial with a long blooming season from summer to fall. These plants offer white flowers that add texture to sunny and partially shady areas. Because they perform well in moist to wet soils, these are a great selection for rain gardens, near ponds and streams, in beds and borders, and in cottage gardens. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Aster
  • Family (botanic) Asteraceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, Sandy soil, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Occasional flooding
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Narrow, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate
  • Wildlife Butterflies, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Common boneset will often mature to 4 to 6 feet in height and 3 to 4 feet in spread. They primarily colonize by slowly developing clonal offsets from their underground stem structures (rhizomes). Common boneset can also self-seed, but not very readily. 

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Common boneset is native to the Eastern and Midwestern United States. C-value: 4. 

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

The fragrant flowers of common boneset attract butterflies, bees, wasps, flies, and beetles, and a number of moth caterpillars will use these plants as a source of food. Though the seeds may be too small to interest many birds, the swamp swallow is known to occasionally eat common boneset seeds. 

Leaf description:

The leaves of common boneset occur in pairs that are directly across the stem from each other (opposite arrangement), and the bases of the leaves merge to surround the stem (perfoliate), which is a unique characteristic of this species. They are light green to yellowish green in color, long and narrow (lanceolate), and have small, sawlike teeth along the edges (serrate margins). The deep veins of the leaves give it a wrinkled appearance (rugose). The lower sides of the leaves are hairy (pubescent). 

Flower description:

Terminal flower heads occur on the central stems of common boneset, and they consist of nine to 23 disk florets. The flower heads are approximately one-sixth of an inch in diameter. Each individual floret has five lobes that look a bit like petals and form a star shape, as well as two stringlike protrusions in the center (two-part style). These two-part styles give the flowers a fuzzy-looking appearance.

The outer portions of the flower heads are surrounded by one or two layers of light green to whitish leaflike bracts that are hairy with glands present (glandular trichomes). The flower heads grow in a flat-topped formation with the most mature florets occurring around the outer portions of the flower heads (corymb inflorescence).

Fruit description:

Small, dry fruit (achenes) with hair that helps them to disperse with the wind, similar to the fruit produced by a dandelion.

Plant care:

Common boneset is a low-maintenance plant that may need some staking in fertile soils to prevent flopping over.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Common boneset is not susceptible to major pests or diseases and is also deer resistant.


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