As you wander through the park during the early fall season you will notice white clusters of flowers throughout the landscape; by the stream path, along the meadows, in the woodlands, and besides the trails. Although it is widely spread and seemingly ordinary, this native wildflower has been essential in the past and will be again in the near future.
Common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is a perennial plant. It can be identified by its noticeably tiny, white flowers arranged in fuzzy clusters that bloom from June to October. It can grow up to four-feet tall with hairy leaves that grow opposite from one another, and are united at the stem. Each leaf is sharply pointed with finely-toothed edges. It adapts to either sunny or shady conditions in moist to wet soil, making Dumbarton Oaks Park a perfect home.
Introduced to colonists by Native Americans who used the plant in traditional herbal medicine, homeopathic doctors believed that the structure of common boneset’s leaves: fused together so that it appeared as if they were growing though the stem, indicated that the plant would be useful in setting bones. Doctor’s wrapped the leaves with bandages around splints, thus solidifying its modern-day name, boneset. The dried leaves were also used to make tea to treat colds, coughs, and constipation. Boneset was a popular remedy for Native Americans, having extensive and frequent use. It had such an influence that even today you can find and purchase boneset herb extract.
Common boneset also plays a role in preserving, protecting and attracting pollinators to Dumbarton Oaks Park in a time when the loss of pollinators has been widely reported. The species has been recognized by pollination ecologists for its ability to attract large numbers of native bee and support Biological Pest Control by attracting predatory insects that prey upon pest insects.
As you stroll through the park blooming with common boneset not only do we encourage you to recollect the significance but also admire the beauty it brings into the park! Take a picture of your encounter with the native wildflower, post it to your social media and tag us!