Vernonia arkansana

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: great ironweed 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Northern and central United States
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: Pink-purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Deer, Wet Soil


Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun. In the wild, it is seen growing in moist to wet areas along streams and sloughs as well as in drier glade and prairie areas. Plants generally grow taller in moist soils. Overall plant height may be reduced by cutting back stems in late spring. Easily grown from seed. Remove flower heads before seed develops to avoid any unwanted self-seeding. This species of ironweed tends to hybridize with some other native ironweeds, which can sometimes complicate plant identification.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Vernonia arkansana, commonly called curlytop ironweed or Arkansas ironweed, is native from Illinois to Kansas south to Arkansas and Oklahoma. In Missouri, it typically occurs in gravel and sand bars along streams, slough margins, wet meadows, thickets, open woods, prairies and glades primarily in the Ozark region of the state (Steyermark). This plant is noted for its narrow, willow-like leaves, large flowering heads and narrow, twisting, involucral bracts. It is an upright perennial that typically grows on stiff, leafy, nearly glabrous stems which grow to 3-5’ tall in cultivation, but to as much as 6’ tall in the wild. Linear to linear-lanceolate leaves (to 7” long) are usually glabrous. Composite flowers, each with fluffy, pink-purple disks (rays absent), bloom in loose, corymbose cymes from late summer into fall. Flowers give way to rusty seed clusters. The source of the common name for vernonias has been varyingly attributed to certain “iron-like” plant qualities including tough stems, rusty-tinged fading flowers and rusty colored seeds. Notwithstanding its toughness, the plant is, with the exception of its attractive flowers, a somewhat unexceptional ornamental. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies. The within species is synonymous with and formerly known as V. crinita.

Genus name honors William Vernon (d. c. 1711), English botanist who collected in Maryland in 1698.

Specific epithet means of Arkansas.


No serious insect of disease problems.


Naturalize in cottage gardens, wildflower meadows, prairies or native plant gardens. Also effective as a background plant for borders. Good for areas with moist soils.