Vernonia fasciculata (Prairie Ironweed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Western Ironweed, Smooth Ironweed, Bunched Ironweed
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; moist soil; low prairies, ditches, marshes, along shores
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:3 to 6 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Flat-topped or dome-shaped clusters up to 4 inches across at the top of the plant, and smaller clusters arising from upper leaf axils. Clusters are made up of a few to many flower heads, each about ¾ inch across. Each head is made up of up 10 to 30 tubular purple flowers with 5 narrow spreading lobes, a split style with curved tips.

[photo of bracts] The bracts surrounding a flower are green to purplish brown, flattened and rounded at the tip, somewhat resembling fish scales and with white, cob-webby hairs around the edge. Flower stalks are minutely hairy and often purplish.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are long and narrow, to 6 inches long and 1¾ inches wide, tapering to a sharp point at the tip with small sharply pointed teeth around the edges, and are stalkless. The underside of leaves are often pitted, sometimes with a few hairs in the pits. Leaves are otherwise hairless and alternately attached. Stems are mostly erect, unbranched, hairless and green reddish purple.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry seed with a tuft of coppery brown to purplish hair to carry it off in the wind.


Prairie Ironweed is a personal favorite—love the color, especially combined with the yellows of native sunflowers with which it often grows. There isn't another Minnesota native quite like it, though Baldwin's Ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii), a more southern species, was collected once near Brainerd in 1890. It is now considered Historical in Minnesota, but is available in the nursery trade. It is distinguished by the hairy stem and leaves, where Prairie Ironweed is essentially hairless.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Ted - Southeastern MN in Fillmore Co
on: 2009-08-30 15:59:43

I've noticed this flower for the past several years and often marveled at it's height and beauty. I could not find it in "Wild Flowers of Minnesota". This flower is growing in an area of Minnesota that at one time was all prairie. Thank you for the information on the web site.

Posted by: Catherine - north shore of White Bear Lake
on: 2010-07-20 14:19:19

Wow! I've never seen this plant before and its Beautiful! What a gorgeous purple array! With a bit of thinking I did think Ironweed... has that Eupatoriumish leaf and stalk. but the most interesting thing is that this is on old beach that is super dried out!!! How did it get here??? How old are the seeds??? The Lake has been down about 5 feet for over 2 years and the native growth is getting exciting this year. Even baby Arrowheads are blooming on the pure sand. I could never get cattails to grow because its too sandy and too much water action at this site. Thanks to This site I was able to identify this beautiful native!

Posted by: Barb - southwest MN
on: 2010-08-04 20:16:37

Last week we saw some of these blooming on some CRP land near a gravel pit. I had never seen them there before, but this has been an unusual growing season here...early spring, very warm and very wet. The echinacea are especially robust in the restored prairie areas, as are the grasses: Canadian wild rye, big and little bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, side-oats grama grass.

Posted by: Susan - St. Paul, near Como Lake
on: 2010-08-12 22:06:36

I have this growing in my flower beds and garden, but didni't know it until this year when I haven't had the time to weed every weekend. I like this plant and am glad to finally know what it is. Now the trick is to get it to grow where I want it. Thank you for the information.

Posted by: Gregour - South Metro
on: 2010-08-20 00:01:03

I see these by the Minnesota River and by the Mississippi near the confluence of the rivers, they are in bloom in mid August. Possibly they grow here every year, although it's true the Spring weather was different this year and seems to have altered some populations of plants and perhaps animals. As I take photos and sometimes get good ones etc, I learn more plants, these definitely have a noticeable brilliant color.

Posted by: Nathan - Glenwood MN
on: 2012-11-13 13:23:50

I think that the Iron Weed plant is realy a nice plant.

Posted by: Keith - River Bend Nature Center Faribault, MN
on: 2014-08-21 22:02:18

Ironweed is in bloom on the meadows and prairie areas at River Bend Nature Center in Rice County.

Posted by: Sean - Meeker Island Dam, St. Paul (dog park)
on: 2015-07-29 13:04:41

Saw this blooming today on the river flat just south of the dogpark. Mistook it for a liatris.

Posted by: Judith - Mac Groveland, St. Paul
on: 2015-08-25 13:37:48

After pruning my black raspberries, three very tall plants appeared with purple blossoms that look like prairie ironweed. They are in loose bunches at or near the top. The bloom is about over. The lower leaves are very long (8" or more), narrow, with sharp teeth and a rough feel on the top. Am I right that they are prairie ironweed?

Posted by: Brett - Otsego
on: 2015-09-02 16:01:27

Saw these along the banks of the Mississippi in Crow River State Park on 8-29-2015. They were not in big bunches, some were in bloom and others were almost ready to seed.

Posted by: Kimberly - Pipestone County
on: 2016-07-27 16:26:36

Found a dozen plants on private property just NW of Edgerton

Posted by: Kimberly - Jackson County
on: 2016-07-27 16:28:04

A large patch in the ditch south of Heron Lake.

Posted by: Harvey - along Lake Bemidji in Beltrami County
on: 2016-08-16 08:47:38

I found a few plants along the bike trail on the east side of Lake Bemidji, blooming on 8/16/2016

Posted by: Rachel K - Southern Minnesota, I-90 corridor between exit 119 and 113.
on: 2017-07-31 11:44:01

Beautiful display! Many other wildflowers also in this section of highway!

Posted by: Beth - Southern Pine County on the banks of the Snake River
on: 2017-08-23 09:05:36

Inspite of recent years of high water on the Snake River that often submerge lower portions of the plants, the same group of Ironweed blooms every summer. They are a favorite of swallowtail butterflies and bumble bees in the area.

Posted by: Brett - Champlin
on: 2019-08-25 20:00:14

Found some in Elm Creek Park Preserve.

Posted by: Darrick Wotachek - Becklin County Park and Rum River Banks
on: 2019-09-05 07:49:53

Found numerous specimens along the MNDNR and County Park Land along the Rum River in Becklin Isanti County Park.

Posted by: Sherrie - MINNEAPOLIS
on: 2020-07-19 08:47:29

This has been growing in my boulevard garden in a very urban area. It just appeared one year when I hadn't yet weeded out the area and now it comes back every year. Beautiful!

Posted by: DIANE FELICETTA - Rice county - rural Lonsdale
on: 2020-08-05 12:47:42

have one nice stand of it growing in our moist ditch along a paved road and saw another stand about a mile away in another ditch.

Posted by: Linda Lorene Daly - Blaine
on: 2020-08-06 12:51:50

Spotted this stunning plant at Lochness Park in Blaine. Conditions were full sun and soil is sandy and occasionally wet. Glad to read this is a native. Will try to add to my yard.

Posted by: Suzi Moore - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2020-08-07 16:06:05

This is in bloom near Pickerel Lake along the bike trail in Lilydale. It's not abundant, but worth looking for.

Posted by: Bob - North Mankato
on: 2020-08-08 15:11:09

We've been watching this plant for the past week. Spotted in a restored tall grass prairie at Benson Park North Mankato. Fairly good size concentration in one area of the prairie. Awesome!

Posted by: Judy Kereakos - Rochester
on: 2020-08-12 09:50:26

I found prairie ironweed blooming in Quarry Hill Park in early August. I was a small amount on the biking/hiking trail near the interpretive center.

Posted by: Marsha Gorman - SE MN
on: 2020-08-21 10:49:58

We have a 15 year old prairie (was pastureland before seeded to prairie) and in just the past couple of years I have seen ironweed. Just coming into bloom now.

Posted by: Martina Pieper - Jordan
on: 2020-11-12 20:08:48

One small clump in Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area. Mixed in with grasses somewhat near the river.

Posted by: Jodi - Brooklyn Park
on: 2021-07-11 16:12:12

Saw this at Coon Rapids Dam. The river is so low you can walk to the islands and in places you normally cannot walk, allowing you to see lots of interesting wildflowers!

Posted by: Ron Johannsen - Trenton Lake
on: 2021-07-25 16:31:04

Very showy bright plants, much color.

Posted by: Bill Brown - Grant
on: 2021-07-31 13:55:58

Blooming now along with cardinal flower along banks of the St. Croix River. Very pretty in the tall grass!

Posted by: Shari Emerson - Dakota County, Lakeville mn
on: 2021-08-09 10:36:52

Spotted this rich magenta-purple plant on a early evening walk around the stormwater pond nesr my house. Area has been in steady (housing) development since 2012. This is a manmade stormwater pond.

Nearby plants- willows, cup plant, birds foot trefoil, milkweed. Local Wildlife includes a coyote or 2, deer, rabbits, muskrats, squirrels, green heron, gb heron, blackbirds, goldfinch, swallows, mallards. Pollinators: bumbles, hummingbirds, monarchs, yellow swallowtails, honeybees, several wasp species.

Posted by: Tim O?Brien - Near Marine on St Croix
on: 2022-08-02 19:48:20

We converted a field to a native meadow a few years ago. This is the first year I've seen ironweed there. Many stems popping up in the wettest part of the meadow. Lovely!

Posted by: Barbara Akre - Duluth
on: 2022-08-13 12:39:18

A dozen or more plants just beginning to bloom in an open area behind Lowell School. Lowell has a school forest, and is adjacent to College of St. Scholastica woods, so perhaps it was originally planted/seeded, but it appears to be thriving. Not particularly wet - adjacent to pavement. I haven't noticed ironweed in our area before.

Posted by: Susanne - Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote
on: 2024-02-28 17:35:25

Several clumps of Ironweed bloomed in July 2023 in the planted prairie (now about three years old) along the top of the Mississippi River Bluff adjacent to the Historic Fort Snelling parking lot and visitor center. The intensity of the color is amazing.

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